When Jocelyn Noël decided he’d look at the possibility of selling traditional Haitian products on the international market, he started with some market research to see what customers wanted. There was no doubt about the answer: cassava – and particularly cassava from the north of the country.
Having confirmed his own business instinct, Noël took the plunge in 2006, invested some of his personal savings and launched Province Food Group– encouraging farmers to grow cassava by guaranteeing to purchase their crop. After a slow start, momentum began to build.
To ensure a constant supply, Noël decided that as a failsafe he should purchase some land and grow his own cassava crop. As a result, he now has a workforce of 21 fulltime and six part-time, with the initial two containers being shipped abroad now increased to nine.
The key to success as an exporter, of course, was being issued with an export license by the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drink Administration, and this the company has achieved and retained in compliance with tough international standards.
One of his major challenges now, says Noël, is to reduce its consumption of environmentally damaging charcoal. Some of the plant already uses propane – and in a highly innovative move, he plans to use ethanol produced from the cassava itself as his main source of cooking energy.