Case Study: American Rice Subsidies and their Harmful Effects On Haiti
Long before any contemporary devastating earthquakes, cholera epidemics or hurricanes – Haiti was having troubles. They had an irresponsible and crooked ruler named Jean Claude Duvalier (he most recently returned to Haiti) who made most of his money on tobacco from 1971 to 1986. Eventually the people revolted and exiled him to France. During his time as dictator there was enough food to feed the Haitians thanks to their successful rice growing operations. Then in 1986 the revolution began and drove Duvalier off of Haitian soil. But they forgot to frisk him before exiling him and he made off with the bulk of the Haitian treasury. This left the populous of Haiti poor, leaderless, and desperate for help. So the IMF swept in and loaned 24.6 million dollars to the Haitians on the condition that they would lower their import tariff protections on rice. With no sign of daily bread in sight, the Haitians agreed and began importing cheap (subsidized) American rice. Some of this was under the guise of food aid. The “Miami rice” as it came to be called was too inexpensive for the local Haitian rice farmers to compete with so they altogether stopped producing. There was a significant amount of violence during this transition. Then in 1994 the plot thickened. As a condition of Jean-Bertrand Aristide resuming his elected presidency, international businesses required him to lower the import tariff protections even more. In 2008 Haiti was the third largest importer of US rice at 240,000 metric tons. The effect that all of this cheap rice has had on Haiti has devastated their economy. In a crystal clear demonstration of American arrogance – the US government has up to 24% tariffs on the rice that gets imported to US consumers, while we coerce others to lower theirs. This cannot be called justice.