Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

ENCORE!

Tunisia's Carthage International Festival turns 50

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

WWI Centenary: the battle for Verdun

Read more

THE BUSINESS INTERVIEW

When big companies want to do good

Read more

REPORTERS

Halal tourism on the rise

Read more

FOCUS

Many Turks angry over Syrian refugee situation

Read more

ENCORE!

Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday : The Best of the Bard

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

The Tour de France, a PR machine

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the third plane crash in one week - from France, Algeria and Burkina Faso

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Coverage of the plane crash that took 116 lives - almost half of them French

Read more

  • Live: ‘No survivors’ from Algerian plane crash, says Hollande

    Read more

  • Paris bans new Gaza protest scheduled for Saturday

    Read more

  • French families grieve for Algerian plane crash victims

    Read more

  • Protest against Gaza offensive turns deadly in West Bank

    Read more

  • LA Times wipes France off the map in air crash infographic

    Read more

  • Tour de France fans bring the ambience to the Pyrenees

    Read more

  • Halal tourism on the rise

    Read more

  • French lawyer files complaint against Israel at ICC

    Read more

  • Ukraine names acting PM after Yatseniuk's shock resignation

    Read more

  • BNP to pay $80 million for defrauding Dept of Agriculture

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Wreckage of Algeria plane found in Mali

    Read more

  • Pope meets Christian woman sentenced to death in Sudan

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

Americas

Food aid is wrecking Haiti’s agriculture sector, says Oxfam

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2010-10-07

Leading humanitarian agency Oxfam believes anti-competition policies and farm subsidies in the US have hobbled Haiti’s agricultural sector by undermining local food production.

International food aid to Haiti following the devastating January earthquake no doubt saved many lives in the impoverished Caribbean island nation.

But a new report by a leading international NGO warns that the delivery of subsidised food – especially from the US – while well-intentioned, is fatally undermining Haiti’s critical agricultural sector and its hopes of economic recovery.

In a report released this week, UK-based humanitarian charity Oxfam said the international community’s food aid effort in quake-shattered Haiti had undercut the agricultural sector, which employs over 66% of the country's  workforce.
 
When buying their staple foods, Haitians have a choice between extremely cheap produce imported from the US, which is grown on massively subsidised super-farms, or the more expensive locally-grown varieties.
 
Local producers cannot compete and consequently the agricultural sector is in terminal decline, the humanitarian organisation says.
 
“Ask people in Haiti and they will tell you that local rice tastes better and it’s more nutritious,” Oxfam’s senior researcher Marc Cohen told FRANCE 24.
 
“But ask them what they buy and they will tell you it’s the US produce, because it’s so much cheaper. Haiti, which imports 80% of its rice, is the United States’ third-largest export market for rice. But the country has the capacity to be much more self-sufficient,” he said.
 
Chronic poverty
 
Haiti suffered a catastrophic earthquake in January 2010, which killed more than 230,000 people. The country was left with an acute food shortage – and thousands more would have died if the international community had not stepped in with a massive food aid programme.
 
According to Oxfam, Haiti, with the help of international donors, now has a unique opportunity to break out of its chronic poverty cycle.
 
But this effort is hamstrung by two apparently contradictory US policies.
 
First, the US supplies Haiti (and has been for years) with massively subsidised food aid, especially rice, which is substantially cheaper to buy than locally-grown produce.
 
At the same time, under a rule called the Bumpers Amendment, the US bans any direct assistance to industries that compete with US exports. Because of this, cash set aside by the US to help Haiti’s beleaguered economy cannot be channelled where it is most needed – into developing the country’s industrial and agricultural infrastructure.
 
Cash for crops
 
Oxfam’s report, titled “Planting Now: Agricultural Challenges and Opportunities for Haiti’s Reconstruction”, calls on international donors to pledge funds for the Haitian government’s $772 million agriculture plan.
 
Cohen, who authored the report, believes the only solution for Haiti is investment in the country’s agricultural sector coupled with ending subsidised exports.
 
“All food aid should be purchased locally,” he said. “Cash is much more effective for rebuilding a country and getting it off aid dependency.
 
“But in Haiti, investment needs to be made throughout the countryside, to provide better health, schools, employment and to develop the infrastructure, while so much more could be done to develop agricultural processing of crops, which is virtually non-existent.”
 
FRANCE 24 contacted USAID, which coordinates the US effort to provide humanitarian relief, but had no response when this article was published.
 
In an earlier statement, the organisation said: “USAID is using multiple tools to provide life-saving food to Haitians in the short term, while simultaneously building and strengthening Haiti’s agriculture sector in the long term.”

 

Date created : 2010-10-06

  • HAITI

    Haiti's Wyclef Jean slams definitive election ban

    Read more

  • HAITI

    Schools start to reopen in wrecked Haitian capital

    Read more

  • FRANCE

    French govt urged to pay back Haiti's 'independence debt'

    Read more

COMMENT(S)