Haiti lies in the Caribbean and shares a land border with the Dominican Republic. But while its neighbor has become an established fine flavor cocoa origin, Haiti produces under a tenth of the Dominican Republic’s annual production.
Haiti was hit by an earthquake in 2010 that killed 220,000 people and left approximately 1.2m homeless. An unrelated cholera outbreak in the same year killed a further 5,899. Today, 90% of Haitians live below the poverty line with over 70% living on less than $2 a day.
The country’s cocoa production dropped around 36% in the cocoa season after the earthquake, but production is starting to pick up amid growing interest from the premium chocolate industry, providing the rural population a much needed outlet.
Cost of Haitian cocoa
Haitian cocoa sells for around $3,100 per metric ton (MT), while FECCANO organic tonnage is estimated at $3,600. The average price for cocoa sold on the three active futures markets is currently around $2,992 per MT, according to the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO).
‘Cocoa offers hope’
“In recent years, there’s been a considerable increase in cocoa producers,” said Guito Gilot, general manager of FECCANO (Federation of Cocoa Cooperatives of the North), a federation of six Haitian cocoa cooperatives. “The increasing recognition of Haitian cocoa on the international market contributes to this trend.”
He said cocoa farming could provide Haitians a good income, especially now farmers had started to improve growing techniques. Gilot added that cocoa was helping to alleviate overcrowding in urban areas after many people had migrated to the capital Port au Price due to lack of opportunities in rural communities.
“Cocoa offers a lot of hope for Haitian farmers because there is much room for growth in the market.”
Haitian cocoa is used by mostly artisan and specialty manufacturers such as French Fairtrade chocolate firm Ethiquable.
Haitian cocoa production (in thousand tons)
Haiti’s cocoa history
Haiti was among the first nations to commercially cultivate cocoa - albeit unsuccessfully - after Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortez setup a plantation in the country and other Spanish territories such as the Dominican Republic in the early-16th century. The French made a more successful attempt to bring cocoa to its colonies in Martinique, St Lucia the Dominican Republic in the mid-17th to early-18th century, but did not do so in Haiti, despite the country being under its control.
Today, Haiti produces around 4,500 metric tons of cocoa per annum, accounting for 0.1% of the global supply, which is heavily concentrated in West Africa.
Three main varieties of cocoa are grown in country: Trinitario, Criollo and Forastero and chocolate containing Haitian cocoa is said to have a fruity flavor.
Cocoa mainly sold unfermented
Despite great promise, the Haitian cocoa crop faces a plethora of challenges. Post-harvest loses are estimated between 20 to 25% (375 kg / ha.), due to poorly kept, ageing plantations that are usually in just one hectare of land and managed by maturing farmers.
Haitian cocoa is also mainly sold unfermented due to poor infrastructure for drying, which often leads to mold growth during rainy periods.
Gilot said the problems were exacerbated by lack of access to credit facilities to help upkeep the farms and “unfair competition from Dominicans who divert cocoa”.
Luc Maille LeFranc, Haiti country director for Lutheran World Relief, an NGO working with Haitian cocoa farmers, said Haitian cocoa’s standing on the international chocolate scene would vastly improve if farmers were trained on fermentation and growing techniques.
“Haitian cocoa is not well-known on the global market. As the quality improves with more investment and training, it will begin to earn a strong reputation,” he said.