Jacqueline Charles recently published an article in the Miami Herald about a possible renaissance of Haitian coffee:
"For years, bitter poverty and plummeting coffee prices around the world have made it much more profitable for farmers to chop trees for charcoal, and invest in cash crops, rather than coffee cherries. Now, with coffee consumption up and a shrinking supply of beans worldwide driving up prices, Haitian coffee is once again becoming a hot commodity."
But the coffee renaissance has its critics who wonder whether this revival, propped up by foreigh aid, can sustain itself after the money runs out."
HaitiFirst blog last week discussed the importance of coffee in Haiti's economy:
"Notwithstanding the decline, the sector remains critical to the livelihoods of small producers. Unlike most coffee-producing countries, Haiti has few coffee plantations, so the sector is the main source of income for more than 100,000 Haitian farmers. The coffee ecosystem is also critical environmentally because most of the 1.5 percent of Haiti’s land under tree cover is in coffee production areas that need the cover for their mixed cultivation system."
Haiti Libre reports that coffee is an important part of the new government's development plans. The Minister of the Interior held an International Coffee Summit on November 15th:
"During the Summit's opening speech, Haiti's Minister of the Interior, Thierry Mayard-Paul emphasized coffee's ties to the country's history and culture. Minister Mayard-Paul further reaffirmed agriculture's strategic importance in President Martelly's plan to invigorate the economy: "Coffee is one of the many areas where we are looking for partnerships, joint ventures and other collaborations, and we are ready to do everything we can to help facilitate this important engagement." The Minister also addressed how, as part of a larger agricultural plan, Haitian coffee could play a significant role not only in economic development, but also in promoting decentralization and job creation in rural areas."
The Roaste.com blog added:
"The coffee industry in Haiti once flourished but the former low prices for the crop, compared to that of charcoal from trees, made the trees the crop of choice. So, many trees were chopped down and coffee plants lost. Now that prices are rising with growing coffee demand, the country is looking at coffee as the answer for poverty in the small earthquake-damaged nation. Subsidies, in the form of foreign aid, provided money for replanting, but the question remains whether or not these crops will pay for themselves once the funding runs out."
Coffee is a hot topic in Haiti. But new attempts to ressurect this ailing industry should study the challenges that have been faced in the past. Luke Dunnington of DAI, working with USAID, helped generate a very successful plan for coffee in Haiti with the launch of Haitian Bleu®. This was a very good plan, with interested partners and an investment of 10 million dollars. As discussed in our blog on March 3rd, Haitian Bleu enjoyed strong initial success, however subsequent disorganization, corruption and loss of crop to hurricanes have greatly reduced the output.
Ms. Charles continued in the Miami Herald:
"Critics say growers and exporters need to focus quality and quantity while the international community needs to help create an economic model that focuses less on subsidies and more on sustainability."
Consistent, exceptional quality is possible with Haitian coffee. This is the most important factor to ensure sustainable income for farmers that will not rely on subsidies.