Haiti, Rice and White Supremacy (Not necessarily in that order)
Hello beautiful people!! It's been a while! Let's get to it!
May 1st was our beloved Haiti's Labor and Agriculture Day, a day that has been celebrated since its historic independence. Unfortunately, there isn't much to celebrate. Let's get context; Haiti was once an agricultural resource known as the "Pearl of the Antilles" due to its fertile soil and abundant agricultural resources. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Haiti was a major producer of coffee, sugar, and other tropical crops. However, political instability, natural disasters, and deforestation have significantly impacted the country's agricultural sector. In addition to the mentioned barriers, the U.S. played a critical role in influencing the trade policies- mainly those under then-President Bill Clinton. The agricultural target? Rice.
Haiti's rice industry has a complex and troubled history. Before the 1970s, Haiti was largely self-sufficient in rice production, with small farmers growing rice for domestic consumption. However, in the 1970s, the Haitian government, with the support of international aid organizations, began promoting rice imports to modernize the country's agricultural sector. This led to a flood of cheap imported rice, which undercut the price of locally-produced rice and drove many small farmers out of business. By the 1980s, Haiti had become heavily dependent on rice imports, with up to 80% of the country's rice imported. This dependence on imports made Haiti vulnerable to fluctuations in global rice prices and disruptions in the international trade system.
Under the Clinton administration, the agricultural policy severely damaged Haitian farming, allowing Arkansas farmers to sell their rice to Haiti, resulting in over 70% of the rice consumed in Haiti being imported from the United States. No evidence suggests that the Clinton administration intentionally wiped out rice farming in Haiti (questionable). However, it is true that the policies of the U.S. government and international aid organizations have had a significant impact on Haiti's agricultural sector.
In the 1990s, the Clinton administration encouraged Haiti to lower its tariffs on imported rice as part of a more considerable effort to promote free trade in the region. This policy, combined with the low-cost rice imports flooding the Haitian market, devastated the country's domestic rice industry. Many small farmers could not compete with the cheaper imports and went out of business. This, in turn, contributed to a more extensive food crisis in Haiti, as the country became increasingly dependent on imported food.
However, it is essential to note that this policy was not unique to the Clinton administration. Many other countries and international organizations also promoted free trade policies that harmed Haiti's agricultural sector. In recent years, there has been a renewed interest in promoting domestic rice production in Haiti, both as a way to improve food security and to support local farmers. However, this has been challenging between continued political unrest, gang violence, and unsteady fragile infrastructure stability is nowhere in the future, as the country's rice industry is still recovering from decades of neglect and underinvestment.
From the early 20th century, when the U.S. invaded Haiti and occupied the country for 19 years, using white supremacist ideologies to justify their actions, The U.S. imposed political and economic policies that further marginalized the Haitian people and enriched foreign corporations.
Today, Haiti continues to struggle with the legacy of white supremacy and its impact on its development and political stability.