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Little Stock To Sell, Few Buyers In Haiti's Capital

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Little Stock To Sell, Few Buyers In Haiti's Capital

Latin America

Little Stock To Sell, Few Buyers In Haiti's Capital

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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GUY RAZ, host:

Back in Haiti, despite the very real concerns about getting food, water and medicine to victims of the earthquake, commerce is slowly returning to the streets of Port-au-Prince. From upscale supermarkets to street sellers with baskets on their heads, some goods are becoming available, at least for those who have money to buy.

NPR's Corey Flintoff reports from Haiti's capital.

COREY FLINTOFF: This is the apex of shopping in Haiti right now, the relatively undamaged Big Star Market in the upscale suburb of Petionville.

Stock boys tear open cartons of goods from the back of the store. People walk the air-conditioned aisles, loading their carts with groceries and cleaning products. There's even a display of heart-shaped candy boxes for Valentine's Day.

Mr. ERVIN BERTOL (Manager, Big Star Market): (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: The manager, Ervin Bertol, says the store has been open for three days now. He's selling the merchandise that was in the store before the quake. After that, he says, there's no immediate prospect for more, because his distributors were ruined.

Mr. BERTOL: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: If there is no more merchandise to be had, he says, he may have to close the doors.

The Big Star Market is a big exception to the rule in Port-au-Prince. Most people in the city have always done their shopping here, in open markets or from vendors who line the pavements of major streets.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: That's where food first began to reappear after the earthquake, in the form of produce brought from the countryside: sugarcane, yams and plantains. Within days, people had begun to reopen stands and carts selling all sorts of groceries, from the rice and beans that are Haitian staples to canned goods, pasta, sugar and flour.

This is a street in the Canape Vert neighborhood. Vendors like Vella Pierre have set up stands on the pavement.

Ms. VELLA PIERRE: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Pierre says she was able to buy some goods from a supplier and get back into business two days ago. Shaded by an umbrella, she pours meal from a big sack into plastic bags, each big enough to hold about a cup. That's because most of her customers can only afford to buy in small quantities. She says she's given credit to some people who used to be her regulars.

(Soundbite of traffic)

FLINTOFF: The next rung down on the retail chain is occupied by sellers like Claudette Diagen, who displays her wares on a rickety stand in the slum district of Carrefour-Feuilles. Her stock consists of a few shopworn bags of spaghetti, a basket of wrapped candies and some battered canned goods.

Ms. CLAUDETTE DIAGEN: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: Diagen says greedy wholesalers like the disaster because it gives them an excuse to raise prices. The cost of a few ounces of spaghetti, for example, is about $4 American, two and a half times as high as it used to be. Four dollars is twice what most Haitian families used to earn in a day.

Ms. DIAGEN: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: When many people hear that price, she says, they just walk away and don't come back again.

Among the people looking on is 42-year-old Clemendina, a small woman whose skin has a dry, ashy look.

Ms. CLEMENDINA: (Foreign language spoken)

FLINTOFF: She has eight children, she says. Her husband was injured in the quake, and the family's house has collapsed.

We see the food here, she says, but we have no money. We feel like eating, but we cannot buy anything.

Corey Flintoff, NPR News, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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