Coffee production in Haiti
||This article is written like a personal reflection or opinion essay rather than an encyclopedic description of the subject. (April 2013)|
Coffee has been a staple of the Caribbean nation of Haiti since its initial colonization by France in the 17th century. Alongside sugar and tobacco, it has long formed the backbone of Haiti's economy. Today, similar to many other Caribbean nations, coffee is one of the nation's most profitable crops. Coffee growth in Haiti is largely a cottage industry, grown by families and farmers, known as pèti plantè in Haitian Creole, in Haiti's Chaîne de la Selle and Massif de la Hotte mountain ranges.
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. Jean-Claude Duvalier's dictatorship made it so that the coffee farmers of Haiti were too scared 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. Haitian's coffee competitiveness suffered internationally. The continuous shifts in the coffee market lead to Haitian's 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 population that was involved in agriculture dropped down to 66 percent. Those who were not involved in the agriculture aspect still took part in the production of coffee through marketing, middlemen, or exporters. With the implementation of Fair Trade policies, however, the profile of Haitian coffee has grown.
Moving into the twenty-first 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.