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Haiti was once a major global supplier of coffee and now, the Government of Haiti and its partners are determined to help the industry regain the luster of years past. The outlook is positive. According to a recently-published article in The Miami Herald, beans from the Gwo Chwal region once sold for US$.30 a pound.
Now, Japanese roasters are buying these quality beans for US$5.50. In addition, Cafe COCANO farmers from Port-de-Paix are expecting to double the exports of their organically-grown coffee, already selling on the Internet and in Italian espresso shops.
In order to take advantage of this renewed enthusiasm for Haitian coffee, Haiti recently hosted its first International Coffee Summit, organized by the Clinton Foundation. The event aimed to support local growers and discuss ways to promote and expand the Haitian coffee industry abroad.
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. ”An expansion of this industry could mean more jobs and better living conditions in areas with minimum community development,” added Minister Mayard-Paul.
Also in attendance were representatives from Haiti’s National Coffee Association, Haitian cooperatives, growers associations, and companies as well as international stakeholders who provided expertise and collaboration to gain access to new markets and promote Haitian coffee globally.
“Having this kind of event is crucial, since we hope this is the beginning of putting things into action,” said Dr. Jorge Arias, Global Aqua Director for Alltech, a leading animal health company based in Kentucky which is also a major buyer of Haitian coffee. “We need to produce more coffee in Haiti but we have to reassure producers that their coffee will continue to sell internationally.
Our role as investors is important. We, along with financers, growers and producers, all have a very important role to play.” According to Fritz Francois, president of COOPCAB, a co-op in Thiotte, which currently works with more than 5,000 coffee farmers in southeastern Haiti, renewed coffee fields can also contribute to reforestation and a reduction in the impact of natural disasters, such as landslides.
“It is almost impossible to find anyone today in Thiotte cutting down a tree to make charcoal. Today, because coffee means money, farmers are motivated. They are leaving the trees because to cultivate coffee, you need shade.”
Minister Mayard-Paul, whose Ministry carries out President Martelly’s vision to drive sustainable development through local initiatives and decentralized cooperation, was pleased with the Summit’s attendance and encouraged by both national and international interest. “The government is committed to facilitating investment, we have a population that is ready to work hard, and a wide variety of opportunities,” he stated.