PORT-AU-PRINCE, HAITI — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimated Haiti’s 2015 cereal production at 353,000 tonnes, down 4% from the 2014 drought-reduced level and significantly below the five-year average, according to a Dec. 30 GIEWS Country Brief from the FAO.

This is the result of the severe and prolonged dry weather associated with the prevailing strong El Niño. Most of the decline concerns maize and rice. Preliminary official estimates point to a reduction in the area planted to cereals of at least 50%, largely in the main producing regions of the Central Plateau and South-East. In the North-West and North-East, chronically dry and low production regions, total loss of crops and livestock have also been reported.

Cereal imports in the 2015-16 marketing year are forecast at a record level of 698,000 tonnes, driven up largely by an expected significant increase in wheat and rice imports. Imports of maize are also forecast to increase, and although maize accounts for a relatively small amount of overall cereal imports, maintaining supplies in rural areas where it is an important food is critical. Attaining the necessary quantities of additional maize imports in the current marketing year will be made difficult by the drought-reduced availability also in the Dominican Republic, the country’s main supplier.

Prices of main staple imported rice, sourced mainly from the U.S., declined in most markets in November, reversing the increases of the previous month. The declining trend reflects lower quotations in the international market.

By contrast, prices of domestically-produced maize meal surged in several markets in November, with monthly increases ranging from 10% to 33%. Prices in November were significantly above their levels at the same time last year, particularly in Jeremie, the main market in the southwest of the country. Similarly, in the Capitol, Port au-Prince, and Hinche markets, price increases were recorded for black beans, which on average were well above their values a year earlier. Prices were underpinned by this year’s severely reduced production.

FAO assisted 9,000 households in the North-West and South-East regions of the country during the sowing period of the third minor season, recently concluded, with technology packages that included seed for maize, sorghum, sweet potato and cassava.