Feb 19, 2019
ARLINGTON, VA – Haiti, the United States’ second largest rice market by both volume and value, has been rocked by civil unrest for more than two weeks as a result of soaring food and fuel prices, and a currency that has lost 30 percent of its purchasing power. Last week, Haitian Foreign Minister Bocchit Edmond, in town for high level meetings with U.S. government officials, came to USA Rice headquarters here to meet with industry representatives to discuss the current situation in his country.
“The government of Haiti has made some difficult decisions that have had dire consequences, but they were necessary,” Minister Edmond said, referencing the decision to cut off fuel imports from Venezuela last year. “Our schools have been closed for two weeks, hospitals are paralyzed, and the National Police are exhausted.”
Edmond was in Washington meeting with officials at the State Department and White House seeking solutions to the country’s economic emergency.
“We are very appreciative Minister Edmond personally came to brief us on the very serious situation,” said Betsy Ward, president and CEO of USA Rice. “We are also honored that President Jovenel Moïse called in to thank us for welcoming essential members of his Administration.”
Haiti imports long grain milled rice from the mid-South and representatives from several USA Rice member companies active in the market joined Ward in the meetings. Haiti imported 366,553 metric tons of milled rice in the first 11 months of 2018 (the equivalent of 14.7 million cwt, paddy basis), valued at $185 million.
“Haiti’s consumers show a strong preference for U.S.-grown rice and it is an essential market for the U.S. rice industry,” said Bobby Hanks, chair of the USA Rice International Trade Policy committee who attended the meeting. “We are very sympathetic and are looking at several avenues to assist the Haitian people, and preserve this critical commercial market and long-term investments made by U.S. suppliers.”
Edmond stressed that time is of the essence and while they need help, his government is not looking for hand-outs.
“We believe in the big heart of the Americans to work together for a good cause,” he said.
“We committed to Minister Edmond that this is our highest priority right now,” concluded Ward. “USA Rice members also met with Trump Administration officials to encourage a coordinated response that can provide assistance to the fuel, food, and currency crisis.”