of Haitian Coffee:
Gabriel de Clieu brought coffee seedlings to Martinique around
1720. Those sprouts flourished, and 50 years later there were
18,000 coffee trees enabling Jesuits to spread cultivation to
Haiti, Mexico and other Caribbean Islands.
Because of the world's taste for coffee, French colonial plantations
relied heavily on African slave laborers. In 1788, Haiti supplied
half the world's coffee.
Dreadful slave conditions and brutality resulted in the first
successful slave revolution in 1804. After independence, coffee
remained one of Haiti’s major export crops, peaking around
1850. In the 1940's Haiti's coffee sector made a brief comeback
where in 1949, Haiti was the third largest coffee exporter in
the world. Thereafter, like before, coffee production and exportation
made rapid declines.
Since 1950, Haitian coffee, once again, has been forgotten for
Political instability / the brutal dictatorship of the Duvalier
years, 1957-1986, brought about economic demise - including coffee
Like many countries, after the collapse of the International
Coffee Agreement in 1989, coffee production fell with the onset
of low market prices.
During the U.S. embargo in the mid 1990s [boycotting the Aristead
regime], many farmers burned coffee trees to make charcoal [Haitians
buy charcoal at the market to use as cooking fuel].
Decades of political unrest and government corruption made farmers
too afraid to come down from the mountains to sell crops.
Between 2000 and 2001, worldwide oversupply caused coffee prices
to drop to their lowest levels in 100 years.
Over time, Haitian farmers lost skills needed to grow, harvest,
and process coffee, and Brazil eventually cornered the regional
market, aided by modern facilities.
Seeds for an upswing in Haitian coffee production were planted
in the 90's when better coffee processing plants were developed.
Ensuring growers a good price by cutting out local middlemen and
selling directly to the United States also made things better.
Furthermore, training in land management, shade canopies and coffee
seedling programs launched practices that, today, are bearing
fruits of long and hard labor.
In spite of near collapse, coffee will continue to be a backbone
of Haiti's economy; Haitians have an incredible resiliency to
weather cyclical downturns and dramatic political unrest - maybe
that's why we, at the Rooster, enjoy working with Haitians as
much as we do ! They're tenacious and ever inspiring.