Haiti's Rice Problems

Over the weekend, I had a chance to catch the Frontline/World segment on Haiti's aid problems since the earthquake earlier this year. The report specifically focused on the dilemma foreign aid has "caused" on the island, especially for Haitians who sell rice. My issue with this report was the fact that Haiti has had a rice problem long before the earthquake, thanks in part to U.S. policies towards the island.

Excuse me for bringing this up - since NPR won't do it - but last time I checked, Haiti used to grow its own rice. I am surprised that nowhere in the program was this mention. It was almost a given that the United States was suppose to give rice to Haiti, rather than allow it to be food secure with its own agricultural resources.

A little history lesson...

From Reader Supported News:

Today, little rice is grown in Haiti; instead, the nation is a market for the subsidized rice crop grown in the United States. Human Rights lawyer Bill Quigley, now at the Center for Constitutional Rights, wrote about this trend in the spring of 2008, as food riots shook Haiti and other parts of the developing world:

In 1986, after the expulsion of Haitian dictator Jean Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loaned Haiti $24.6 million in desperately needed funds (Baby Doc had raided the treasury on the way out). But, in order to get the IMF loan, Haiti was required to reduce tariff protections for their Haitian rice and other agricultural products and some industries to open up the country's markets to competition from outside countries. The US has by far the largest voice in decisions of the IMF. "American rice invaded the country," recalled Charles Suffrard, a leading rice grower in Haiti, in an interview with the Washington Post in 2000. By 1987 and 1988, there was so much rice coming into the country that many stopped working the land.

Haiti is now the third largest importer of U.S. rice in the world. The rice is "dumped" on the island by American farmers receiving subsidies from the US government to grow surpluses of rice at a rock-bottom rates, undercutting Haitian rice farmers.

And some Americans have the nerve to call Haiti "the basket case of the Western Hemisphere," when, in fact, the United States and their friends at the WTO and IMF are undermining the very structure it needs to survive.


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