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Haiti’s damaged food sector recovering but production still low, UN finds

Haiti’s damaged food sector recovering but production still low, UN finds

Plaintains for sale at a local market in Haiti.
A joint assessment by two United Nations agencies has found that Haiti’s food sector is slowly beginning to recover but production remains well below the levels that existed prior to the January earthquake.

Despite the damage caused to Haiti’s food production systems by the devastating 7.0-magnitude quake and a late start of the 2010 spring rainy season, subsequent rains helped to support agricultural recovery, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP).

“Levels of food production could have been much worse,” said Mario Zappacosta, an economist with FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture.

“Timely provision of food assistance and agricultural inputs coupled with decent weather, have enabled farmers who were affected to start getting back on their feet,” he added.

The joint FAO/WFP Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission that visited Haiti from 16 June to 13 July found that Haiti’s 2010 spring harvest, compared to 2009, saw bean production drop by 17 per cent and declines in maize, sorghum and plaintain of eight, four and five per cent respectively.

Forecasts combining the spring harvest with expected production from the summer season suggest that the small Caribbean nation’s overall crop output for 2010 will be about 503,600 tonnes of cereals, 148,000 tonnes of pulses, 1.2 million tonnes of root crops and 313,200 tonnes of plantain, all of which are lower than 2009 levels.

Meanwhile, rice production is expected to increase by 15 per cent in affected irrigated areas, where water supply has improved and FAO and other agencies have provided fertilizer, seed and credit.

The team estimated that Haiti’s total food import requirement for the 2010/11 (July/June) marketing year at 711,000 tonnes, of which 525,000 tonnes are expected to be imported commercially, leaving an uncovered deficit of about 186,000 tonnes.

FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture, which are leading the agriculture cluster for Haiti’s recovery, distributed agricultural inputs to 72,000 farming families in earthquake-hit and rural areas in time for the critical spring planting season, which accounts for 60 per cent of Haiti’s agricultural production.

The cluster has been working during the summer planting season to reach an additional 80,000 rural families with tools, fertilizers, water pumps and high quality seeds.

“There is still a lot of work to do to improve food security in the country,” said Myrta Kaulard, WFP Country Director in Haiti. “These good results confirm that we are on the right track to allow Haitians better access to affordable and nutritious food.”