Fruit processing in Haiti
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CTA. 1996. Fruit processing in Haiti. Spore 61. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47232
Fresh fruit is difficult to transport successfully from the rural areas where it is produced to the urban centres where demand is greatest, but it can be processed into many products which store well. However, there are a number of technical and...
Fresh fruit is difficult to transport successfully from the rural areas where it is produced to the urban centres where demand is greatest, but it can be processed into many products which store well. However, there are a number of technical and administrative constraints to the development of fruit processing activities. The Centre de Recherche et de Documentation Agricole (CRDA) of the Republic of Haiti is attempting to overcome these constraints with simple and appropriate technologies. A cornucopia of fruit can be found on Haiti: mango; guava; passion fruit; pineapple; quenepes (a kind of smooth-skinned litchi); oranges and other citrus fruits; and the fragile cashew nut which spoils in two days unless preserved. Amongst all this diversity, only one specific variety of mango - Francisque - keeps well enough to be sold fresh to the neighbouring US. The production chain for the Francisque mango is well organized. There are eight factories in the country. These buy all the Francisque mangoes available, sometimes even before the fruit is ready for harvest, and they also organize collection. The fruit is gathered just before it begins to ripen and, in order to prevent it falling to the ground, a long pole to which a small bag is attached is used to harvest it from the tree. The mangoes are then dipped in hot water for two or three minutes. This is principally to stop whiteflies laying eggs on the fruit and the subsequent appearance of telltale little holes on the surface of the mango. The heat of the water bath, which is carefully maintained at between 50°C and 55 C, also ripens the fruit. Although this treatment is obligatory in Haiti for mangoes which are to be exported, it is not utilized, for example, in Africa. However, the proliferation of fruit flies is likely to mean that African exporters will eventually have to adopt the treatment. Production of other fruits in Haiti is less favourable. Because of the system of inheritance, land holdings are very small and piecemeal. Farmers rarely have more than one hectare at their disposal and this is nearly always divided into a number of smaller parcels of land on which crops for household food consumption have to take priority. Farmers are also restricted as to where they can plant trees, because yields of their subsistence crops are adversely affected by shade. Fruit production is therefore haphazard. Each producer may have five mango trees, a dozen avocados, or perhaps five orange trees. And, as Mme Pascale Châtelain, an agronomist specializing in transfer of technology at CRDA notes, because there is no real market, nor any form of organized collection of the fruit, producers prefer to feed it to their animals than try to sell it. Production is made more marginal because, with lack of outlets for the fruit, the trees themselves are often sacrificed for making charcoal. However, La Section de Technologie et de Biotechnologie (STEB) of CRDA has placed emphasis on encouraging rural people to process part of their fruit production on-farm as a means of reducing wastage. Eat home-grown fruit! A number of fruit processing activities already exist in Haiti, even though they are still in the early stages of development. They produce principally jam, but also jellies and the candied fruit sweets which women sell in the streets. There are five small Haitian businesses which produce jam, mostly from guava and pineapple, with fruit bought in season. 'These businesses, which usually employ a permanent workforce of four or five people and bring in seasonal workers as necessary, all started out as family enterprises', says Pascale Châtelain. 'Their products keep well and have a shelf-life of six to eight months.' Even though there are no more than about thirty supermarkets in the town of Port-au-Prince, their windows are filled with imported products. Local fruit is seldom displayed. 'If Haitian businesses could triple their production', says Pascale Châtelain, 'they could certainly sell all they produce.' The key to growth and multiplication of small enterprises is the organization of supply to the town, from piecemeal production in rural areas. Imported fruit juices, of which urban Haitians consume a great deal, are also in evidence in city supermarkets, while locally preserved fruit juices are non-existent. The straightforward process of preparing juices, bottling, and pasteurizing them for consumption two or three months later, is unknown in rural areas. The city dwellers who buy the imported juice know that the process is relatively easy but it is a technique that is simply not considered by rural people, some of whom have never even seen the finished product. Nevertheless there are significant market opportunities in town to substitute imported products and the CRDA is trying hard to put in place techniques of juice production which could add to the range of local fruit jellies and jams. The lack of equipment at the CRDA is a major drawback. 'lf we had more equipment at our disposal', says Pascale Châtelain, 'we could do more but we also have to remember that rural communities do not have electricity.' What is attempted at the CRDA must be achieved using the same equipment as is available in rural areas. That is why the CRDA is developing processing technologies that need only simple tools and why it chooses to adapt those tools which already exist. These are pragmatic steps but ones which are more likely to lead to success. Dried mangoes project A team from the Technology and Biotechnology Sections of CRDA is currently working on a project to develop techniques for drying mangoes. The project, which is financed by funds from the Micro Project budget of the European Union, is at Lascohobas, a village some 9()km from the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. The project combines two objectives; to promote opportunities for rural women with that of establishing village-level, agro-processing enterprises, principally for fruit. It is led by three agronomists, Pascale Pierre César, Lesly Saint-Preux and Pascale Châtelain, and an engineer (technical expert), Dominique Volein. CRDA, which is directed by Dr Max Millien. will use the experience gained with this pilot project to develop model small-scale processing units which are appropriate for the Haitian situation and which can be widely established at village level.