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  • Demonstrators participate in an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 12, 2019.

    Demonstrators participate in an anti-government protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 12, 2019. | Photo: Reuters

Published 5 March 2019

Subsidizing imported rice will only strengthen monopolies and weaken local production and this is the Chagha's argument for firmly opposing the measure implemented by the government.

The Haitian government has taken the decision to subsidize imported rice to the country, as part of a response against the current economic crisis in the Caribbean country. This measure has aggravated tensions between farmers and the representatives of the country's current administration.

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According to the Chamber of Agriculture and Professions of Haiti's (Chagha) council, this measure will only strengthen monopolies and weaken local production and this is why the Chamber is firmly opposing the measure implemented by the government.

Prime Minister, Jean Henry Ceant, after being pressured by the protests caused by the ongoing price highs of basic products,  announced recently the suspension of tariffs for over 60 tonnes of imported rice.

However, this measure, according to the Chagha, would put too much pressure on local farmers as they would be facing unfair competition, against the products that are imported to the country. Also giving an unfair advantage to importing companies. Which, in the long term will aggravate the already weak national production and generate a higher budget deficit.

According to Eric Balthazar, president of the Chamber, the efficiency of this measure is very doubtful in the internal market, as there is a high risk that the subsidized rice will not reach places that are far away from cities, where it is most needed.

Last Sunday, Prime Minister Ceant met with rice farmers of the Artibonite Valley, the most important area of the country for its cultivation, and promised to take the necessary measures to strengthen this specific agricultural production. For many economists the best strategy to solve the crisis is to widen production and offer of local agriculture, using policies that back the rice sector, among others.

However, the government had already promised to give fertilizers to farmers at a fair price, as is one of the products that has lately increased its cost considerably, which has made the local rice less competitive. This measure implemented by the government aims to stabilize the price of rice in the domestic market, which has been widely criticized by several sectors.

During the decade of 1970, Haiti became auto-sufficient with the local production of rice, but this was affected due to pressures from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and foreign governments that wanted to reduce the taxes on rice imports. Now Haiti consumes around 600 thousand tonnes of rice, produces only around 100 thousand tonnes, and imports the rest, mainly from the United States.

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