Haitian Coffee

From an article about Haitian coffee (ht MR):

Atlantic Food Channel contributor Jerry Baldwin, co-founder of Starbucks and the company’s first roaster and buyer, agrees. He now owns Peet’s Coffee and Tea, and he says the relatively low-altitude Haitian coffee doesn’t have the taste his company seeks. Still, he suggests that coffee drinkers who want to help Haiti donate to long-term agriculture projects.

I emailed Peet’s after the earthquake to ask about Haitian coffee. They said the distribution network isn’t there yet and the quality is low. I simple-mindedly suggested Peet’s throw money at the problem, perhaps funded by customer donations. Peet’s representative Ginny replied (Technoserve is an NGO Peet’s works with that has a very small team in Haiti working with farmers):

I don’t think it’s overly optimistic to think that eventually Technoserve or another similar NGO might help Haitian growers start producing really high quality beans, and that Peet’s might be a part of this, just as we have been in East Africa. But our main contribution in this kind of endeavor is expertise, not money. Jerry Baldwin, who bought Peet’s from Alfred Peet many years ago, and our buyers Jim Reynolds, Doug Welsh, and Shirin Moayyad have all lent their coffee expertise to growers all over the world (not just those served by Technoserve). And a Peet’s employee left Peet’s about a year ago to go work for Technoserve full time – his many years at Peet’s as a coffee and tea trainer helped to give him the expertise that Technoserve looks for.

So the issue is not simply money. Producing coffee of the very high quality that Peet’s looks for can take years. When I started with Peet’s 11 years ago, the only East African country producing coffee of the quality Peet’s looks for was Kenya. Now we are buying from Burundi, Rwanda, Malawi, and Tanzania. But this certainly didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t just money that made it happen. Issues that have to be addressed include proper care of the land, the soil, and the coffee trees themselves, selective picking of the coffee cherries, proper processing techniques, etc. It’s a long process of education, training, and feedback from experts.

She suggested to me that I take a look at Technoserve (which looks to be legit). Here’s their reply to my email to them about “my” idea to work in Haiti:

While I certainly like your idea and we do work in Haiti, we do not have the capacity or funding at the moment to certify farmers to sell to Peet’s Coffee. We do hope to have the capacity to do this in the future.

Incidentally, the Haiti – Integrated Financing for Value Chains and Enterprises (HIFIVE) team that TechnoServe is a part of does some work involving coffee. We assist small and medium enterprises (SMEs) or associations that could include coffee producers or coffee traders. With only a three-person team, however, we do not have the capacity to work with farmers directly as we do in other countries and other programs. Therefore, I am afraid that our partnership with Peet’s Coffee in other countries could not apply to our work in Haiti.

In the Atlantic article, someone is quoted as saying Haitian coffee is a “cause” coffee not a “quality” coffee. If the long-run recovery of Haiti concerns you, supporting groups like TechnoServe might be the way to go.


I was reading a very important article linked to by The Economist when I noticed the domain name was bakadesuyo. This is an expression the Real Scientist uses all the time, often in reference to things I’ve said or done.

I think it means “very good!” or “you’re so smart and good looking!”, but sometimes I think it may mean “please continue doing that because its not annoying at all!” or “you’re really good at Wii Super Mario!”.

Negative externalities of Congress

So they’re going to torpedo Bernanke’s nomination because they need his blood to placate their base. Ms McArdle says:

I see the political logic, but the economic logic is pretty poor. Bernanke didn’t become Fed chair until 2006, long after it was realistically possible to do much about the bubble except wait for it to pop. He shepherded us through the financial crisis without another Great Depression–maybe not perfectly, but no Fed chair would have been perfect. The markets have confidence in him. Spiking his nomination may have grim effects on 401(k)s throughout the land.

But doesn’t this suggest the political logic is piss poor, too? The uncertainty of monetary policy (not to mention financial regulation) hurts the voters’ 401(k)s. I don’t take this stuff that seriously, but reading tealeaves of stock market movements, one could easily attribute the 5% drop in markets this week to this uncertainty. Voters who are 5% less wealthy are less likely to vote for you.

But individually, it makes sense for Senators to vote against Bernanke’s reappointment. They can tell their inattentive constituents they’re “doing something” about something. Or something else of the “off with his head” flavor. This will work for the marginal voter, thus marginally improving the chance of reelection for each Senator that votes no.

Uncertainty is pollution created by Senators doing what’s in their own best interest. As theory predicts, there’s more uncertainty than is socially optimal. Because this pollution is created by the government, what we need is a benevolent super-government to fix this “market” failure. Somebody call the UN or maybe after they fix this global warming thing the IPCC can help out.

Catholic Relief Services

… is where we donated. They had 300 staff in Haiti already and they have a large existing staff in the Dominican Republic. They can hit the ground running, so to speak. Also because a large majority of the population of Haiti are practicing Catholics, I’d imagine church is the first place many folks will go for help.

UPDATE: Their BBB page and from their “accountability” page: “we follow the tenet of subsidiarity: A higher level of government—or organization—should not perform any function or duty that can be handled more effectively at a lower level by people who are closer to the problem and have a better understanding of the issue.”


At 4:27 pm, a magnatude 6.5 earthquake hit about 27 miles due east west of my childhood home:

Everyone in the family is accounted for and fine (it turns out half were out of town for a cheerleading contest). Broken glass everywhere. Mom says, “We forget so quickly about earthquakes and start stacking glass on glass and not tying anything down.” A few gas leaks reported in town and one fire.

The woman dog-sitting for my dad said she heard a collapsed roof killed someone. Let’s hope its just rumor.


Dave Magni, owner of the Ivanhoe Hotel in Ferndale, said, “We are sitting in a sea of booze” after the quake. He felt an aftershock while talking with CNN. “My employees are out in the parking lot right now,” he added.

UPDATE from the Ferndale Enterprise twitter feed: “Flashback to 1992….not as bad…damage not as bad”.

The 1992 Earthquake was much larger at magnitude 7.2, but it was centered further, and a mountain range, away.

UPDATE: Good to see the Palace has power.

UPDATE from the Enterprise: “#Ferndale quiet now after #earthquake. Crab feed on at the Veterans Hall. Why waste it?”

UPDATE: Twumboldt has a more steady stream of updates.

Be anonymous?

Back in the dark ages there was a debate about whether or not aspiring academics should blog pseudonymously before tenure. There was some speculation that Dan Drezner lost tenure at Chicago because of his blog and I remember, but can’t find, a good discussion at Crooked Timber on the subject.

Via email, a fellow grad student pointed me to Economics Job Market Rumors where Anonymous is having a discussion with herself about my fate as an “out” grad student blogger:

Blog is pretty opinionated. Is the guy as full of himself as he seems? Will the blog hurt him when he’s on the market?

help him. a) he doesn’t do personal attacks, but b) sticks his neck out there and says what he thinks. Gotta have some guts in this Econ academic-status game.

It won’t hurt him. Anyone who wouldn’t interview/hire someone because of that (well-written, intelligent, and respectful) blog is a buffoon, and he’d be better off elsewhere.

Revealed preferences exposes my favored hypothesis. It seems many “aspiring academics” forget they have a very nice outside option or two. In any case, let’s just say the experiment is still running and we won’t have preliminary results for at least several more months.

Dissertations I’d like to read

  • Monetary policy and unemployment: welfare costs of lagged unemployment and optimal policy
  • Time consistent fiscal policy: the case for an independent fiscal authority
  • Banking crises cause monetary shocks: evidence from an IV
  • Monetary shocks cause banking crises: evidence from an IV
  • Macroneuroeconomics: detecting expectations shocks in real time
  • Modern macro made simple: a new approach to teaching macro

(PS – My own dissertation would be on the list… except I’ve already read it!)

An aggressive post about Crooked Timber

Somebody has the mistaken impression that people read CT for the posts. The comments are the only reason to “read” ((i.e. skim the post and head straight for the comment section)) CT.

The posters at CT deserve some credit for having attracted so many good commenters, I suppose. But there was probably some first mover advantage in this case, so not too much credit.

More advice for the universe

Keep in mind that there’s huge fixed costs to simulations. I wrote code in May that is still running. As in, it hasn’t converged yet. This was suppose to be my job market paper.

This summer was spent trying to find ways to make my code run faster. There’s not much economics in that.

There’s not much economics in the algebra involved in getting analytical solutions to your models, either. But at least the end result is an equation that you can give an economic interpretation to.

Also, my sense is that these sorts of papers take a long time to get published. This is probably because the models are not very transparent. People giggle when I say that my paper will have “simulated comparative statics”.

Also, don’t use R to simulate stuff in. Its really slow and there’s not much you can do about it. Otherwise, R rocks.