Haiti’s struggling mango industry seeks to rebuild following the January 12 7.0-magnitude earthquake, by thinking of ways to step up exports to help increase revenues to improve the country’s shattered economy. According to a recent Miami Herald article, the traditional technique of harvesting by hand is “keeping the $10 million- to $12 million-a-year industry from tapping its full potential.” Most of these mangoes are sold to the United States.
Some initiatives to help Haitian mango farmers include the recent unveiling of a new juice, Haiti Hope Mango Lime-Aid (produced by Coca-Cola). Still, the article says, “it will take more than a new juice to help make Haitian mangoes spike in profits.” 40 percent to 60 percent of mangoes are lost before they even arrive at the plants for many reasons including the lack of organized groves, a fruit fly problem (which forced U.S. Department of Agriculture experts to temporarily suspend exports), bad roads, and poor handling techniques. Jean-Maurice Buteau, a mango exporter, is building two centers to reduce losses and is working on a plan to turn the damaged mangoes into a frozen mango product. He also finds that working with middle men places the small farmers and the development of exports at a disadvantage.
The IDB-Coca-Cola initiative aims to double the income of 25,000 Haitian farmers by giving them access to loans and markets, and teaching them new techniques on harvesting the fruit. David Williams, regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for TechnoServe, a nonprofit handling the $7.5 million, five-year IDB-Coca-Cola project, says that the ultimate goal is to supply not only the fresh export market but to supply puree from Haitian mangoes for Coca-Cola’s Odwalla line of juices. Haitian Agriculture Minister Joanas Gue welcomes the initiative saying that organizing farmers allows them to deal directly with exporters and ultimately control their own destinies. Although the purpose is not to disempower the middle men, one of the goals is to help the farmers produce enough to support their families and communities.