More than two centuries ago, the colony that would become Haiti grew half of the world’s coffee. Today, Haiti’s coffee exports are a rounding error within the global industry.
I’ve been researching Haiti’s coffee sector for a while, and in the process I’ve come across a few historical sources with export data. I used them and more recent data from the USDA to plot a rough history of the country’s coffee exports, as seen in the chart above. The data points are sparse for stretches of certain decades, but the picture gives a glimpse into the story of coffee in Haiti from the time the French brought the plant to the island in the early 1700s until today.
So what did happen? Coffee’s story in Haiti is closely wrapped up in the broader history of the entire country. The coffee question could even just serve as a proxy for the superficial and gargantuan question that people always want to know about the place: Why is Haiti so poor? Or, put slightly differently: How did the richest society on the planet 200-plus years ago become one of the poorest ones today? It’s obviously a big question and one that I’ll happily duck in a blog post.
When it comes to coffee specifically, you can read more about Haiti’s sector here, in a Medium piece I reported last year.