The United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, has closed its mango preclearance programme in Haiti, blaming the “worsening challenges” faced by its inspectors in the French-speaking Caricom country.
In an October 24 letter to President of the Association Nationale des Exportateur de Mangues, Ralph Perry, the Area Director of Central America and the Caribbean for the USDA preclearance and offshore programme, Jorge Abad, said the closure would take effect from the end of January next year.
“We are taking this action because of worsening challenges in Haiti that have made it impossible for our APHIS inspectors to safely work. This move is in alignment with information that we have received from the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince,” said Abad.
He said the USAID has placed all 10 APHIS inspectors in Haiti “on indefinite, paid leave, starting on October 10, 2022” and that the team will remain on leave until the programme officially closes.
“We commit to working very closely with them, Haiti’s national plant protection organisation, and ANEM as we move forward with this process. We will consider reinstating the programme if the situation in Haiti improves, in consultation with the US Embassy in Port-au-Prince,” Abad wrote, adding that the safety of “our employees is our highest concern”.
Officials in Haiti said that the closure will seriously affect farmers, noting that last year, the sector recorded more than US$12 million in revenue.
But so far this year, they note that the volume of mangoes from Haiti, one of the leading producers of Francisque mangoes in the Caribbean and Central America, has declined.
This decrease was mainly attributable to the situation of insecurity in Haiti, the difficulties of moving and transporting the fruit in the country as a result of the shortage of fuel caused by armed gangs seizing fuel depots, as well as the high and soaring prices paid for the commodity on the black market.