Miami Rice in Haiti: Virtue or Vice?

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Case Study #10-13 of the Program: ''Food Policy For Developing Countries: The Role Of Government In The Global Food System''


Critics of free trade often use Haiti as a poster child for failed trade liberalization policies. In 2010, 15 years after the second round of trade liberalization in Haiti, U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was instrumental in Haiti's trade negotiations, apologized for convincing Haiti to adopt liberalization policies. He said, It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked. It was a mistake, I had to live every day with the consequences of the loss of capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people because of what I did; nobody else (Katz 2010). Food insecurity has been a challenge in Haiti for more than 30 years. In 1986/87, almost 50 percent of households in a nationwide survey had less than 75 percent of the recommended levels of food energy intake (Jensen, Johnson, and Stampley 1990b), and in 2000 the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concluded that Haiti had the third-highest caloric deficit per person in the world, behind Somalia and Afghanistan. The most severe poverty and food insecurity were and continue to be in Haiti's rural areas (Jensen, Johnson, and Stampley 1990b; Institut Haïtien de l'Enfance and Macro International 2007). Most analysts of Haitian food security agree that Haitian agriculture is constrained by low government and donor investment, a limited amount of arable land in a mountainous country, small landholdings due to inheritance divisions made with each generation, environmental deterioration, and poor infrastructure. Total agricultural output has stagnated or declined since the 1960s (FAO 2010). Free-trade critics additionally argue that Haiti's food security problems in the 21st century are caused or exacerbated by the structural adjustment policies promoted by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. These policies led Haiti to reduce rice tariffs from 50 to 3 percent, a shift that allowed large amounts of subsidized rice grown in the United States to enter the Haitian market, displacing Haitian-grown rice and destroying the livelihoods of rice farmers (McGuigan 2006; IMF 2001). This case explores the impact of Haiti's liberalized rice trade on food security in Haiti, identifies the policy's winners and losers, and considers the historical and political context that contributed to these outcomes. Key stakeholders include Haitian rice sector workers, urban and rural consumers, the Haitian government, U.S. rice growers, and international institutions, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization (WTO). The government's policy options for reducing poverty and improving food security include reinstalling protections for rice farmers to boost domestic prices, investing in agriculture or agricultural markets to increase crop yields and possibly exports, developing alternatives for urban and rural employment, and challenging cheap rice imports from the United States through the WTO. It is 2006 and President-elect René Préval is about to start his second term as president. In the context of the rice situation, you are asked to address him on how to reduce poverty and hunger throughout the country. The country successfully pursued improved macroeconomic stability during 2004-2006 and is now in a better position to focus on reducing poverty and hunger as it prepares its Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper. Given the available statistics and their uncertainties, what would you advise him to do to reduce rural and urban poverty and hunger? How would your answer change in response to the food price crisis in 2007-2008?

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16 pp.

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Erica Phillips, Derrill D. Watson II (2011). Case Study #10-13, ''Miami Rice in Haiti: Virtue or Vice?''. In: Per Pinstrup-Andersen and Fuzhi Cheng (editors), ''Food Policy for Developing Countries: Case Studies.''16 pp.

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