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The Market System for Rice in Haiti

Port au Prince
February, 2010

On January 12, 2010, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude hit the island of Haiti, approximately 25 km west of Port au Prince. Approximately 692,000 people have been displaced in Port au Prince, many of whom are living in spontaneous urban camps. Approximately 38% of all buildings in greater Port au Prince have been damaged or destroyed. WFP has distributed food to more than 2.5 million people in Port au Prince and outlying areas. This EMMA study was conducted about four weeks after the earthquake, focusing on the market system for rice, Haiti's staple food, and the earthquake-affected population in Port-au-Prince.

Before the earthquake, 6 importers based in Port au Prince (PaP) were importing around 70% of the imported rice, while the remaining 30% was being imported by 14 smaller importers elsewhere in the country. These PaP importers were selling the rice to 8 main wholesalers who, in turn, were selling it to around 200 small wholesalers, supplying a network of 10,000 PaP "Madam Saras” and small retailers who then sold to households. Locally produced rice was transported by a network of 8,000 “rural Madam Sara’s to "Madam Saras” and retailers, particularly between June and September after the main rice harvest in the Artibonite region. Market prices were mostly dependent on international rice market price fluctuations. The actors along the market chain were mostly dependent on rolling funds, particularly for the smaller actors with limited access to low cost credit facilities. Those small actors were also the most exposed to the rising insecurity in the country, with the "Madam Saras" particularly exposed to looting and violence.

Rice imports have for the most part stopped following the earthquake because of aid distributions and traders' anticipation that they will continue. PaP port is badly damaged and relief imports have priority; however, importers were confident that they could deal with their normal volumes through other ports. Only half of the major wholesalers thought they could restart business after the earthquake, the others having lost their storing facilities. However, 80% of smaller-scale wholesalers have lost their storage facilities. As a result, "Madam Saras” are now dealing directly with the main wholesalers. To cope with insecurity, "Madam Saras" and other retailers are purchasing smaller volumes of rice to reduce the amount of stocks left overnight. There are also constraints on the production side, with water shortages and increased prices.

To help restore rice markets while meeting the affected population's food needs, this report recommends ensuring transparency and communication between market actors and the humanitarian community; enhancing market-place security; targeted, diversified food distribution; monitoring market recovery and potential bottlenecks; simultaneous Cash-for-Work and Food-for-Work programs; and unconditional cash transfers to households and most affected market chain actors, particularly small wholesalers.

Report authors: 
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