Coffee production in Haiti
Coffee production has been important to the economy of Haiti. Coffee has been a principal crop of Haiti since the early 18th century, when the French brought the plant to the colony, then known as Saint Domingue. Alongside sugar, coffee long formed the backbone of early Haiti’s economy. In the present day, coffee has fallen behind both mango and cocoa in terms of export value. Smallholder farmers, known as ti kiltivatè in Haitian Creole, account for virtually all the coffee grown in Haiti, which is cultivated throughout the country’s mountainous regions. Several US companies import coffee from Haiti, including Domestique Coffee, Bonlife Coffee, Cafe Kreyol, La Colombe, and Singing Rooster.
In 1788, Haiti was responsible for half of the world’s supply of coffee. Coffee production has been hurt by natural disasters, as well as U.S.-led embargoes against the governments of François and Jean-Claude Duvalier. Duvalier’s dictatorship made it so that the coffee farmers of Haiti were too afraid to come down from the mountains to sell their crops. The machinery began to rust and the skills needed to harvest the coffee trees were lost in the generations. Following the movement away from Haitian coffee production, Brazil moved in and took control of the world coffee market.
With brief comebacks in 1850 where coffee was a major export of Haiti, or in 1949 when it rose to the world’s third major producer, the market has continued to go through continuous boom and bust cycles. Haiti’s coffee competitiveness suffered internationally. The continuous shifts in the coffee market lead to Haitians burning their coffee trees in order to make charcoal, hoping that would improve economic wealth. When Haiti was a main world contributor of coffee, 80 percent of the labour force was involved in agriculture. In the 1980s the percent of the population that was involved in agriculture dropped to 66. Those who were not involved in the agricultural aspect of the crop still took part in the production of coffee through marketing, or being middlemen or exporters. With the implementation of fair trade policies, however, the profile of Haitian coffee has grown.
In the 21st century, the decreasing number of Haitians in the agriculture labour force was due to their harsh climate conditions. Haiti has suffered from soil erosion as well as deforestation, which affect the growth of coffee crops. As well as continuous cycles of flooding and droughts, Haiti suffers many natural disasters. In 2010, Haiti was hit by a 7.0 magnitude earthquake which killed many and left the country in devastation. These natural disasters played a large role in the decrease of Haiti’s role in world coffee production.