The troubled nation was once a major sugar exporter. It could be again, for its own benefit and American waistlines
Economist Tyler Cowen suggests that one way to help Haiti would be to “repeal tariffs on Haitian sugar.” I’m guessing he doesn’t expect this to be a short-term aid, because right now, under the crazy system of sugar import quotas employed by the United States to keep domestic sugar prices high, Haiti is actually permitted to export 7,258 metric tons of sugar to the U.S. every year. Except that, as of November 2009, according to data from the USDA, Haiti had exported exactly zero tons of sugar to the United States for the entire year. In fact, at numerous points over the last 30 years Haiti has been forced to import sugar.
Still, sugarcane is one of Haiti’s few domestic cash crops, and the Dominican Republic, which shares the same island, is a huge sugar producer, enjoying the largest sugar quota granted any country in the world by the United States — 20 times the size of Haiti’s. So in principle Haiti could and should be a significant sugar exporter. Indeed, Michael Roberts wonders if disastrous economic disparity between the Dominican Republic and Haiti might be connected to the huge inequality in sugar quotas granted the two nations.
As Roberts suspected, that answer is hard to determine. The tribulations of Haiti’s sugar industry — which date all the way back to Christopher Columbus — are embedded in a history of government mismanagement, foreign interference, and uneconomic farming practices that are challenging to untangle. But certainly, the U.S. habit of using sugar quotas as a foreign policy tool to reward or punish its trading partners hasn’t helped.
The U.S. policy of subsidizing a few domestic sugar producers by artificially keeping local prices high is a crime against some of the poorest countries in the world. Even worse, the artificially high price of sugar in the United States is one of the forces that has encouraged U.S. food producers to substitute low priced corn-derived high fructose corn syrup for sugar in a vast array of processed foods.
Get rid of the sugar quota! Not just for Haiti, but for our own health.
More Related Stories
- Cuomo: "Shame on us" if New York City elects Weiner
- Coburn calls questions about tornado aid "typical Washington B.S."
- Conspiracy theorists clash over London attack
- Voting is not a right
- Destroying the planet for record profits
- Ahead of Obama's speech, U.S. acknowledges four American drone killings
- Pic of the day: Barack Obama at prom
- Anti-Islam backlash in London after machete attack
- Must-see morning clip: Bill O'Reilly visits "The Daily Show"
- Obama’s drone speech will probably be maddening
- Boehner: "Inconceivable" Obama didn't know about IRS targeting
- Obama to announce new effort to close Guantanamo Bay
- House supporters of KXL received $56m from fossil fuel industry
- Judge tells lesbian couple to separate -- or lose kids
- Obama to address drones, Guantánamo
- If Alex Pareene were a cable news executive...
- Portland's senseless war on fluoride
- Graphic video reportedly shows possible London machete attack suspect
- What economists get wrong about the jobs crisis
- Ted Cruz: "I don't trust the Republicans"
- Pa. governor "can't find" any Latinos to work in his administration
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11