Friday, February 19, 2010

Rice Oil Beans Charcoal Prices Haiti Soar Post Earthquake

Diri, Pwa, Chabon, Sik Blan Costs Rise in Cap-Haitien

Hello Everyone,

If you are poor in Haiti, It costs you more to cook and eat if you are middle class in Canada.

Though the cost of staples in Haiti -- rice, beans, oil -- and charcoal needed to cook them have risen dramatically in the past few years, they have risen more since the quake in January.

Here are some examples of what these basic items cost in Cap-Haitien as of February 19, 2010. For those purists who disagree with my interpretation of gode and marmite, please trust my experience, as Haitian market measurements do not comply with international standards.

Quantities, Measurements
1 gode (pronounced goday) is about one cup;  There are 6 gode in 1 marmite, and 19 marmites in 1 gwo sak (Large sack).

Exchange Rates HTG to USD

On Monday, February 15, 2010, Fonkoze Bank gave an exchange of 38.2 HTG (Haitian gourdes) = $1 USD (US dollar). (See this post for details.) To add to the currency mix in Haiti, the Haitian dollar is also used: $1 Haitian is about 5 HTG or $7-$8 USD.

When buying rice, we get a break by buying the large bags. Nobody gets a break buying beans. These are today's prices (18/FEB/10). Tomorrow will bring a different set of numbers.

Using these rates, as we had to this week, this is what rice, beans, sugar, oil and charcoal cost: 

RICE (diri) : 61 US cents for 1 cup of rice;  $10.17 US for 1 marmite rice, $50 US for a large bag of rice.

When I first came back to Haiti in 1998, 1 gode diri (one cup of rice) cost 3 HTG; The price had since gone up up to 11 HTG; On Tuesday, it was 22 HTG, and Wednesday, one cup of rice cost 23 HTG.

1 gwo sak diri (large bag of rice, approximately 19 marmites) costs $380 Haitian (about $55 USD). Four years ago we thought it outrageous when the price of rice climbed to $250 Haitian ($36 USD) per large bag.

BEANS (pwa): 1 gode pwa (cup of beans) costs 30 HTG (79 cents US); 1 marmite costs $34 Haitian ($4.47 US), and a large bag beans costs $84.93 US.

COOKING OIL: 1 gallon cooking oil costs $60 Haitian ($7.90 US) for the cheapest brand.

SUGAR (sik blan): 1 gode sik blan (1 cup white sugar) costs 66 US cents.

CHARCOAL (chabon) : One marmite (enough to cook one meal) costs $8 Haitian or 40 HTG, or just over $1 US.

A marmite of chabon (charcoal) costs 25 HTG on a good day. The price goes up to 35 HTG per marmite when it rains. Using the 38.2 exchange rate per USD, that would be 92 cents US or almost a dollar for a small amount of chabon which may or may not be sufficient to cook the rice and beans. If the beans are tough (as often happens), one needs a larger amount of chabon to boil them long enough to be edible.

We have the luxury of buying charcoal in quantity,  and so usually pay less per portion. The cost of chabon will settle if we have a few days of sun.

We will begin packing the rice, oil, beans in smaller portions and distributing them to the students this week.

As the above amounts and prices show, the high cost of food and charcoal is a nig reason why the poor of Haiti are malnourished and sick: They have no job and no income, so cannot buy food.

And remember, these are just a few of the staple items; not a balanced diet, which is why we add, when we can, foods like peanut butter with protein powder mixed in, and supplement with vitamins.

Until next time,


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