Disastrous Food Policy Bites Hands that Feed
One mamit (5.75lb tin) of rice? 150 Haitian Gourdes (about £2.24 or $3.57), up 50% since July. Corn meal? At 100 Gourdes a mamit, that has doubled in the past year. Beans? Well, they are only 210 Gourdes, a mere 40% increase.
It is a measure of the scale of the food price crisis that Haitians are now using the word goudougoudou – their imitation of the sound of ground rumbling in the 2010 earth- quake – to denote hunger pains. Soaring food prices mean the hungriest country in the Americas is get- ting hungrier.
The most immediate cause is the impact of Hurricane Isaac, which devastated crops across Haiti in late August. Shortages quickly made their impact felt in markets and shops where the poor, who include many small farmers, can spend up to 75% of their minimal income on basic foodstuffs even at ‘normal’ prices.
Isaac followed a drought in April and May, ensuring a poor harvest for 2011-12. Even before the hurricane, total cereal yields were expected to be down by 7% to 607,200 tonnes: rice 15% lower at 120,300 tonnes, with the root vegetable crop projected to fall 6% to 419,000 tonnes.