When he talks about his business, Jean Chesnel Jean is clearly determined to maximize the company’s profits for himself, his shareholders and his workforce – but even more than that, he’s determined to establish Haiti as the world’s top producer of cacao.
A firm believer in research as a route to success, when Jean completed his studies in Belgium he set about identifying the types of cocoa bean grown in Haiti – firstly, so that they could be grown using the appropriate methods, and, secondly, to improve his negotiating position with chocolate manufacturers, for whom knowing the type of cocoa is essential to consistent flavor.
Ayitika – which means “Haiti can” – now has a fulltime staff of nine, and Jean sends planters to Costa Rica for technical training, while students pay return visits to his company in Torbeck for hands-on experience. He also works with a Cuban expert on grafting and micro-grafting whose methods mean the cocoa beans can be harvested after 18 months instead of after the more typical five years.
Each cacao tree produces 30 to 40 beans or roughly 1.3 kg of cacao per season, a volume Jean is determined to increase. At the same time, he usually has around 50,000 seedlings ready to plant and he sells these to independent growers who also pay to be trained in the best methods of husbandry.
Ask Jean what element of his business he’s proudest of and he’ll tell you it’s his work on the identification and selection of cacao pods. “I did what the government should have done for the country years ago: being able to identify types and flavours will guarantee Haiti a place on the world cacao production map in the future.”