Report 49. Haiti small-scale coffee producers production, processing, quality control and marketing
Mencia, Victor E.
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DescriptionThe Haiti Productive Land Use Systems (PLUS) Research Project continued and expanded the work of the Haiti Agroforestry project. It was intended to encourage Haitian farmers to plant trees as part of an overall plan by USAID to curb the devastating erosion which was washing the top soil into the sea. This project also investigated the effects on other crops as a result of tree planting.
Coffee is one of the principal agricultural products in international trade volume and value. Haiti and several other producing countries depend to varying degrees on coffee exports. Coffee production is also a major source of employment in all producing countries, particularly for the poorer segments of the rural population. The smallholders, comprising the majority of growers worldwide, are in many countries organized into large groups -- cooperatives, producer unions, federations or associations -- which consitute important instruments for economic development. The purpose of this consultancy was to carry out an assessment to identify the needs, constraints and potential demand for services in coffee cooperatives and producer associations as selected by the South-East Consortium for International Development (SECID), in conjunction with institutions collaborating with the Productive Land Use Systems (PLUS) project. The evaluation of local conditions -- specifically the existing institutional framework -- and the needs detected, will facilitate EnterpriseWorks Worldwide's consultant team to develop a series of cost-effective interventions aimed at increasing the incomes of small-scale coffee producers. The interventions would include: --Implementing a marketing strategy and direct technical assistance to improve access to up-to-date market information and to facilitate direct linkages between the small-scale producers and more competitive markets in the United States and Europe. Likewise, the strategy would seek to establish mutually beneficial relationships and alliances between producers and buyers that could generate potential joint ventures and innovative financing for the producers. --Improved processing technology to facilitate the transition of the producers from natural coffee (sun-dried unprocessed cherries, a practice that damages the inherent quality of Arabica coffee) into the higher-value washed coffee. Also, the use of improved technology would increase efficiency in the transformation process and further enhance the quality of the product, thus maximizing the value added by the producers and their associations. --Developing the managerial capacity of the organizations through the implementation of improved management information systems that would help enhance their capacity to make more informed decisions and improved negotiations. Likewise, these systems would have a direct impact on increasing the levels of productivity and profitability of the organizations' operations. --Improved farm management practices to increase the productivity of the small-scale coffee producers' farms by introducing better farm management practices, which would include higher yields by optimizing plant population, integrated pest management, shade regulation and crop diversification to promote food self-sufficiency and enhance biodiversity. Likewise, the introduction of better collection practices would enhance the quality of their coffee and maximize income. Special emphasis would be placed in helping the farmers move away from inefficient and harmful agricultural practices that are incompatible with efforts to maintain environmental quality. Coffee production in the geographic areas visited by the team is characterized by predominant subsistence farms in the North, and although still small-scale, a more commercial type of operation in the Center and South-East departments. The common denominator is the state of neglect of the farms, cultivated under poor management with trees that are very old, weak and prone to disease and low productivity. This is the consequence of a long period of low and unstable market prices, lack of government policies to support the subsector and very little private-sector's investment. As a result, coffee production has declines dramatically and Haiti has lost a great percentage of its market share and much-needed foreign exchange along with it. This situation has led many farmers to abandon coffee and switch to annual crops on the hillsides, which are being more severely degrading. This apparently grim situation, however, presents Haiti with a great opportunity to target the fastest growing coffee market segments -- organic and gourmet -- which command high premiums. An improvement in management practices could help increase productivity on existing farms and renovation with appropriate varieties would increase production, help regain Haiti's coffee market share and raise the income in rural areas.
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