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IDB fund approves grant to improve quality and expand market access of Haitian coffee

An $800,000 grant from the Inter-American Development Bank’s Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) will help finance a project to improve the quality of Haitian coffee and expand its access to premium markets.

“The growth of Haiti’s rural economy depends on increasing the competitiveness of its agriculture, and this project intends to do just that, using a high-quality product to strengthen and expand the coffee sector,” said IDB project team leader Diego Arias.

The project will benefit small- and medium-scale producers as well as strengthen the executing agency, the Haitian Coffee Institute (INCAH), which also receives financing from the European Union. INCAH will provide $340,000 in cash and in-kind contributions for the project.

Haiti has a long coffee-growing tradition. Until 2001, when international prices sank to their lowest levels in decades, coffee was the country’s top agricultural export. The crop still plays an essential role in the rural economy, generating employment and income for tens of thousands of families.

The new project draws from a current MIF program that promotes coffee quality improvement in Central America. Through that program, participating producers in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica are succeeding in establishing a quality management system that has resulted in increased export sales at premium prices.

Using resources from a French technical cooperation trust fund, INCAH has started to learn about the Central American experience. Haitian specialists have already made exchange visits to observe how Central Americans coffee producers set up their quality management system.

In Haiti, the project will work with pilot groups of producers who cultivate appropriate varieties in agro-climatic conditions capable of yielding high quality coffee. As in Central America, a quality management system will be developed to help producers evaluate and enhance product quality at each stage of the process.

The project will also assist pilot groups in organizing their operations and administration, as well as in drafting business plans and acquiring new technologies. It will also support pilot groups in forging partnerships with coffee exporters and roasters, who can provide valuable information on buyers’ requirements and consumers’ expectations.

A national quality control system will be designed to identify problems in coffee production.  International accreditation will be sought for certifying coffee quality at the national institute’s laboratory.

Under the project, producers will be trained to become “cuppers” and improve their ability to detect defects and recognize special qualities in coffee. Manuals on tasting and chemical testing will be offered to the entire Haitian coffee industry. INCAH will also work with the Haitian College of Agronomy to research optimal preparation methods suited to specific production conditions.

As part of a strategy to promote quality Haitian coffees in the domestic and foreign markets, competitions will be held to bring together producers, roasters and exporters. Winning coffees will be sold via Internet auctions to local and international buyers, a practice that has yielded outstanding results in Central America.

In order to disseminate the project’s lessons among larger numbers of producers, workshops will be held and training courses offered in coffee growing regions. Training manuals on quality management will be distributed to coffee cooperatives and associations.

Other IDB-financed programs in Haiti stand to benefit coffee producers by promoting crop diversification, improving rural roads and strengthening watershed management and flood prevention.  The IDB is also financing various programs and initiatives for the coffee sector in Latin America and the Caribbean.  More information can be found at: www.iadb.org/coffeenetwork.

The MIF, an autonomous fund administered by the IDB, promotes private sector development and investment in Latin America and the Caribbean, with an emphasis on micro, small and medium-size enterprises.

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