Crime

Louisiana’s largest rice market threatened by Haiti instability

CROWLEY, La. (KLFY) Stability for the rice market is being threatened in the Caribbean. Louisiana and the U.S. export more long-grain milled rice to Haiti than anywhere else in the world.

A rice producer in Crowley told News 10 what challenges they are facing because of Haiti’s disasters and unrest. Supreme Rice admitted the security for their Haiti exports has deteriorated for years, but the last three months have especially impacted them.

“It’s slowed us down, but we are getting rice in there,” stated Supreme Rice Vice President John Morgan.

The impoverished country of Haiti relies on U.S. imports of rice for most of its calories. That’s why despite riots, a presidential assassination, and an earthquake, rice has found a way into Port-au-Prince.

Morgan says achieving the export is not always easy.

“There’s been challenges where we’ve either had to stop unloading vessels because of violence, take vessels out of port, and bring them somewhere else,” Morgan explained.

He shared Haiti disbanded its military decades ago and national police have kept the peace since. However, according to Morgan recently “It’s a little like the Wild, Wild West.”

In July, Congressman Clay Higgins wrote the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor a letter saying in part, “(rice) shipments are prioritized as targets by local gangs and even hired, armed security is unable to prevent theft.”

Morgan stated, “Historically gangs in the city did not have the means to challenge the police. Now it seems like they not only have the means, but they may be outgunning the police.”

About one out of every three grains of rice produced by Louisiana goes directly to Haiti Morgan added. At Supreme Rice, Haiti used to buy more than half of what they produce
but constant efforts to expand stateside have helped the company diversify stateside to where Haiti makes up 25% of their business.

“It’s extremely important to South Louisiana, and I don’t think people understand or realize,” Morgan expressed. It’s our best market. We have a vested interest in it, but we also should have a vested interest in a country that is right at our doorstep.”

Haiti did attempt to restore some stability with an election last month, but it’s been postponed with no date set. Morgan said people Supreme Rice works with in the country fear if there is an election, they’d likely be unfair due to coercion at the ballot box.

Written by Neale Zeringue

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