The Republic of Haiti occupies the western third of the island of Hispaniola with the Dominican Republic coverting the other two thirds or so and is widely reported as the poorest country in the Americas with about 80% of the population living in povety. This fact alone makes me more inclined to try and promte their cocoa as much as I can.
About two-thirds of the population work in agriculture, with most of them being subsistence farmers. The issue we have is that they’re struggling to support their own families with their own food production so why should they try and produce items for non-esential, luxury goods for export? Well they need the foriegn currency to all them to invest in new machinery and infrastructure to get themselves out of poverty – and we totally support that view.
There’s not a great deal of data available about cocoa production in Haiti. What I can find out is that cocoa is the third most popular in terms of US$ value to the USA – behind textiles and cotton. There does seem, however, to be a great deal of information about how the US Agriculture department is investing a lot of time and money in helping the Haitain cocoa farmers in improving their knowledge and skills to raise cocoa production. And its been a success – in a four month period they managed to increased by 72% alone.
It seems that coffee has been the main foodstuff grown for export, with cocoa production steadily growing over recent years and actually overtook coffee exports in 2002, despite the natural disasters and fluctuations in the world cocoa prices. Strong progress has been made, however, with the cacao being responsible for 3.90% of exports *(by US$ value) in 1994 to 6.51% in 2004.
Foreign private sector companies are also investing a great deal in the country as well. Novella Exports bought 2,400 local farmers cocoa drying equipment as well as funding some of their salaries. Whilst M&M Mars has expressed an interest in co-founding local training schemes.
The EU is also helping via the Agronomes Vétérinaires Sans Frontières who is teaching local cocoa farmers how to process cacao.
I’m sure I’ve seen some chocolate made from Haitain cocoa on my website travels, but I just can’t remember where. I’ve seen some new sthat Chocolats Bellevue sell some but I can’t see any on their website – I’ve emailed them to find out. It does seem that you can get some Fairtrade chocolate from the Ethiquable website if you live in France or Corsica.