Haitians demand further cuts in food prices

Haitians called for further cuts in the price of staple foods, days after the government lowered the price of rice to counter violent protests against soaring costs. (Report: S. Claudet, W. Bracciano)


In the Port-au-Prince slum of Bel Air, the market is packed with both people and goods piled up in the stalls. But residents who can actually afford to buy anything are rare. Vierge Jean, an unemployed mother of four, has a quick look around, but gives up. As is usual of late, she leaves empty-handed.

“We want to buy maize, but we cannot afford the oil or the beans that go along with it,” says Jean. “In fact I don’t buy anything, it’s just too expensive.”

In the wake of recent food riots, President René Préval ordered a 15 per cent cut in the price of rice, a measure that has only just been enforced.

“They decreased the price of a bag of rice by a tiny little bit,” says a local Bel Air grocer. “It dropped by 30 Haitian dollars but it’s not enough for the poor. It’s still too expensive.”

And expensive it is, even more so considering traders are watching the price so their profit margin remains the same. As a result, buyers like Vierge Jean are not seeing the benefits of the price cut.

Vierge heads back home with an empty flask of cooking oil in her bag. She lives in a narrow passageway with her four children. In a month, she’ll give birth to a fifth.

Her neighbours’ situation is hardly better. On a nearby landing live an old lady and her two grand-children. “She is unable to eat or wash, nor can she find food for her two grand-children,” laments Vierge. “The children often cry, while the lady fills in for both their mother and father”.

The people of Haiti find it harder by the day to feed their families. Right now, a third of the population is suffering from malnutrition.

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