Haiti’s U.S. Rice Imports
Haiti is a major market for U.S. rice, accounting for about 10 percent of U.S. rice exports and generating around $200 million in revenue for the U.S. rice industry. Nearly all of this rice is from the South, which typically accounts for 75-80 percent of annual U.S. rice production. Haiti is also a country with significant food insecurity. Rice imports improved food availability, increasing per capita calorie availability by about 11 percent between 1985 and 2011, according to the Global Food Security Database compiled by the Economic Research Service. Large rice imports also changed the character of the Haitian diet, with rice now accounting for almost one-quarter of total calorie consumption. Imports essentially compensated for low growth and low productivity in Haiti’s agricultural sector. The Haitian Government, as well as international development organizations, is currently working to improve agricultural performance. However, even with significant productivity gains, Haiti is unlikely to achieve self-sufficiency in rice production and will continue to rely on imports of U.S. rice for a significant share of its food supply.
Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world. The World Bank reports Haiti’s annual per capita GDP as just $824 in 2014, compared with $6,147 in the Dominican Republic, which shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti, occupying the eastern two-thirds of the area (World Bank, 2015). ERS’s International Food Security Assessment, 2014-24 reported that roughly 70 percent of Haiti’s population was food insecure in 2014 (Rosen et al., 2014). The unemployment rate currently exceeds 40 percent, with just one-third of the labor force having a formal job. A lack of skilled labor also limits economic growth. Compounding these chronic economic problems was the January 12, 2010, magnitude 7 earthquake, which devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince, killing between 100,000 and 200,000 people and causing substantial economic losses and infrastructure damage.