January 27th, 2010
09:30 PM ET
5 years ago

CNN Fact Check: Are U.S. food policies partially responsible for Haiti's poverty?

(CNN) – The Rev. Jesse Jackson says U.S policies are partially responsible for Haiti's economic problems.

In a CNN "Newsroom" interview with Ali Velshi, Jackson declared: "Our agricultural policy... allowed the Riceland Rice company to drop rice on Haiti, drive Haiti farmers out of business, and then raise the price of rice and have rice riots."

Jackson's comments echo a 2005 report by the international relief agency Oxfam International, which said U.S. policies hurt Haitian farmers and helped Arkansas-based Riceland Foods, the world's largest miller and marketer of rice.

"Riceland's profits jumped by $123 million from 2002 to 2003, thanks in large part to a 50 per cent increase in exports, primarily to Haiti and Cuba," the report said.

CNN was unable to obtain any immediate response from Riceland Foods, which has said publicly that its sales to Haiti have declined over the years, but a CNN Fact Check suggests that U.S. policies have indeed played a role in Haiti's problems.

In a 2006 report, the Cato Institute, a non-profit Washington, D.C., research foundation, called rice "one of the most heavily supported commodities in the United States," and argued that several countries including Haiti "could all plausibly claim that the U.S. rice program has driven down global prices to the detriment of their citizens."

"Until the 1980s," the Washington Post recently reported, "Haiti grew almost all the rice that it ate. But in 1986, under pressure from foreign governments, including the United States, Haiti removed its tariff on imported rice."

The subsidized U.S. rice was cheaper that Haitian rice, and soon, it became a staple of the Haitian diet.

Many Haitian rice farmers were driven out of business, fleeing to the slums of Port-au-Prince.

Later, the price of rice began to rise. It doubled in a little over a year, sparking food riots in Haiti in 2008.

At least six people died before President Rene Preval announced plans to subsidize rice.

soundoff (3 Responses)
  1. Scott, Tucson

    WOW what rock did Jessi Jackson crawled out from under. So Jackson would prefer seeing an American business 'riceland' go out of business so to help a few Hatians. I know I know, it's all Bush fault!

    January 27, 2010 10:07 pm at 10:07 pm |
  2. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Well, that is something that many countries are going to get together on when they talk about long term reconstruction and aid.

    January 27, 2010 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  3. Michael

    Sounds like the Haitian people need to start thinking for themselves. That sounds like a stupid idea to cut their own rice supply off for foreign rice. It's their fault that they accepted that offer. And why would this earthquake spark up things that has happened there before? If people really wanted to help them, they would have done it before the earthquake. It's sad to see peoples deaths could have been prevented but, people didn't care until a natural disaster struck (or U.S. weapon that was tested on Haiti according to Chavez). No matter cares about what happened in Haiti. And most people in politics are only acting like they care for publicity they can use later on. And now we can see sad pictures on television and send money to an organization that says it's going to Haitians but, may be going in the organizations pocket. But, as long as the person donating feels like they've done something to help. Hey, here's an idea, since the unemployment is so high in the U.S. and nobody has anything to do, why not go down to Haiti and help those people. I mean we are the evil ones who take and not give so, why don't we make it up to everybody. (SARCASM).

    January 28, 2010 01:45 am at 1:45 am |