[Documents menu] Documents menu

Date: Sun, 24 Mar 1996 05:59:04 -0600
From: L-Soft list server at MIZZOU1 (1.8b) <LISTSERV@MIZZOU1.missouri.edu>

> S * IN ACTIV-L --> Database ACTIV-L, 9323 hits.

> print 09287
>>> Item number 9287, dated 96/03/22 23:50:28 -- ALL
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 1996 23:50:28 GMT
Reply-To: IATP <iatp@igc.apc.org>
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: IATP <iatp@igc.apc.org>
Subject: NAFTA & Inter-Am Trade Monitor 3-22-

Exports, imports and food

NAFTA & Inter-Anmerican Trade Monitor,
Vol. 3 no. 6, Friday 22 March 1996

Haiti will import an estimated 401,00 metric tons of cereal grains in 1995, more than half of which will come in as food aid, further increasing the competition with locally-grown crops and lowering prices that Haitian farmers can command. In 1987, Haitian rice farmers, 63 percent of whom work plots of a quarter hectare or less, produced three-quarters of the rice consumed in the country. By 1991, Haiti produced 195,000 metric tons and imported 100,000. In 1994, Haiti imported more than 140,000 tons.

Higher-producing strains of rice developed in the U.S. during the Green Revolution of the 1940s and 1950s require more fertilizers and pesticides, which Haitian farmers cannot afford. Haitian rice farmers are also handicapped by lack of mechanization, poor condition of irrigation canals and lack of storage facilities, which forces them to sell rice immediately after harvest. Local rice farmers are threatened by competition from cheap Miami rice imported by the Rice Corporation of Haiti, which is owned by U.S. agribusiness giant Erly Industries. The Rice Corporation now imports roughly half of the rice consumed in Haiti.

Reni Prival, Haiti's new president, signaled his commitment to strengthening the country's agricultural sector by appointing agronomist Rosny Smarth as his prime minister and beginning his term with a visit to the agricultural Artibonite Valley. While nearly 70 percent of Haiti's population is rural, agricultural production for subsistence and for export has declined steadily since 1970, driven down by both overwhelming environmental degradation and liberal policies that emphasize a change from food production for domestic consumption toward export crop production and manufacturing. With 86 percent of the rural population unable to obtain even 75 percent of their daily caloric needs, people continue leaving the countryside by the tens of thousands, seeking even sub-minimum wage employment in urban areas. Thousands of peasants in the northeast, unable to produce rice because of lack of irrigation, cross the border to work in Dominican rice paddies, running the risk of robbery and killing by Dominican farmers and soldiers.

Haitian peasants demand state support for irrigation systems, tariffs to protect local production against cheap imports, land distribution programs and collective farms, but the World Bank's Structural Adjustment Program calls for lower tariffs, privatization and cuts in public spending. Private financing for peasant farmers, while rarely available, carries interest rates up to 85 percent. The National Institute of Agrarian Reform, provided for in the 1987 constitution and finally established last June, has only two employees.

Charles Arthur, Between the Peasants and the Donors, INTERPRESS SERVICE, March 7, 1996; Peter Constantini, Rice Farmers Challenged by U.S. Rice, Strong Dollar, INTERPRESS SERVICE, December 27, 1995; Ives Marie Chanel, Prival Banks on Agriculture, INTERPRESS SERVICE, February 21, 1996; Haiti's Agricultural Production, HAITI INFO, February 10, 1996; Ives Marie Chanel, Rice Growers With Dry Fields, INTERPRESS SERVICE, March 11, 1996.