Today is Labor and Agriculture day in Haiti; a day to celebrate locally grown and produced agricultural products, as well as plant new trees and crops. Some would argue there isn’t much to celebrate, as the majority of farmers in Haiti struggle to earn a decent living due to factors such as low production, poor quality inputs, outdated techniques and cheap imports that undermine the local market. While I agree that the agriculture industry here needs a complete overhaul, especially a major change in policy as it relates to food imports, it isn’t all gloom and doom. There are many good local products and products made with local ingredients available in markets and from street vendors.
I make a conscious effort to purchase locally grown and/or produced food whenever possible. That’s relatively easy to do with things like coffee, tea leaves, cocoa (for making hot chocolate), bread, honey, beer, rum, confiture, peanuts, almonds, cashews, and a wide variety of fruits and vegetables. It’s also pretty easy to find local beef, goat and pork. It’s much more difficult, but not impossible, to find local chicken, eggs, sugar and rice, as imports from the Dominican Republic and the United States flood the market. (I recently learned that many onions are also imported from the DR, so I’m going to make a point of asking about the origin of all the fruits and vegetables I buy just to be sure.)
There are several products that use mostly local ingredients, which I’ve come to enjoy; mostly sweets and baked goods like granola cookies, comparet (scone-like ginger bread made in Jeremie), bon bon siwo (also a ginger bread but a bit sweeter and with a softer texture), peanuts coated in cinnamon and ginger, tablet pistache (similar to peanut brittle) and dried pineapples covered in coconut.
Occasionally, I buy locally made potato chips and breadsticks (I can’t remember what they’re called in French/Creole). A couple of weeks ago, I saw a locally made hot sauce at Giant Supermarket and decided to purchase it instead of the omnipresent Louisiana brand. There are many other products that I’ve had my eyes on, and plan to try soon.
Sometimes, it’s a bit more expensive to buy Haitian products, but to me, it’s worth it. Hopefully, the many ex-pats living here feel the same way. I realize our purchases alone won’t stimulate local production, but every little bit helps.