Report 6. The charcoal market in Haiti : Northwest to Port-au-Prince
Street, Donald R.
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DescriptionThe Haiti Agroforestry Research Project was a program to encourage Haitian farmers to plant fast growing trees as a cash crop. This project was part of an overall plan by USAID to curb the devastating erosion which was washing the top soil into the sea.
The segment of the charcoal market from the Northwest to Port-au-Prince and vicinity is an important link to different components of Haiti's economy. Changes inthe charcoal market may affect the economy's environmental problems at the same time it affects incomes of producers and middlemen and costs to ultimate consumers. The present study attempts to examine the charcoal by unit sold, to determine prices of the product at different market levels by payment to marketing functions, to appraise the efficiency of the market, and to isolate problems in the marketing process. Sacks of charcoal were chosen at random among 20 "depots" or concentration points of the product in the market chain. The sacks were weighted and statistics calculated to establish a baseline for comparison in the future. The main supply route in the zone of Bombardopolis was the primary source of the samples weighed. Three different shipping methods were studied in the Northwest to Port-au-Prince route. The following conclusions can be drawn from the study: 1. The mean weight of sacks of charcoal was 39.5 kg, considerably less than has been reported in the literature. 2. There was a considerable variation in weights as expressed by range, but only a few extreme values appeared. 3. The prices of the mixed species bags of charcoal were the same at the depots regardless of weight. 4. Farm level prices centered around ten gourdes per sack for the mixed species. 5. Prices in the Pourt-au-Prince vicinity varied from 35 to 45 gourdes in one-sack lots and were in the fifty gourde range if sold in small quantities. 6. Market margins seem to be reasonable within an efficiency context. 7. Non-standard weights and varying quality of charcoal tend to reduce the efficiency of the marketing operation. 8. Transportation comprised from about twenty-five to forty percent of retail prices of charcoal for three methods of shipping. 9. Many problems on transportation costs are of a macro nature related to poor roads and need attention from the level of the Haitian government and from foreign donors. 10. Charcoal processing can be adjusted timewise to utilize family labor with a minimum of conflict with other farming activities. 11. Reductions in demand for wood and charcoal by promotion of substitute fuels would tend to reduce incomes of tree farmers in the Northwest.