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#1994: Re: #1955: Economics of Sugar Industry : Paryski comments


Haitian rural agriculture as practiced by peasants is based on a survival 
strategy.  This strategy does not in any way maximize production.  For 
example a peasant will plant one marmit of beans and harvest 8-12 while in 
most other countries farmers harvest 35-40.  So clearly Haitian agriculture 
needs modernization and  capitalization whether these are provided by the 
state or the private sector.  And Haitian agriculture should be protected.  
This way agricultural production can be significantly increased.

But the natural resource base which includes soil and arable land cannot, 
even with the most modern of agricultural techniques, provide enough food for 
the population.  The resource base is highly degraded and continues to be so 
and the population grows in leaps and bounds.  Modern agriculture such as 
practiced in the US or Canada is so efficient that it is more cost effective 
to import food including sugar.

Haiti does, however, have a comparative advantage for the production of 
certain tropical niche products such as mangos, avocados, coffee and spices.  
If investments are made to increase production of these crops, which are 
usually environmentally friendly,  by peasants, more hard cash can be earned 
to pay for imported food and economic development.  And the peasants can 
increase their incomes. An example: a vanilla pod sells for almost US$3 and 
requires careful attention that an industrialized farmer cannot provide.  The 
same is true for other tropical spices.  

Often the technical solutions to Haiti's numerous problems are relatively 
simple, especially when compared with the problems facing cities like 
Calcutta, but what is lacking is commitment by the government and by the 
private sector both of which are content to milk the poor, government 
coffers, the donors and the environment rather than invest in the future with 
the inherent risks involved.  It is interesting to note that Haiti has 
received more than US$3 billion of aid since 1995.  The mentality of no risk, 
non-accountability and the least possible effort infects Haitian society at 
all levels. Unfortunately it is extremely difficult to change such attitudes.

Paul Paryski

Paul Paryski