The issue with Agritrans is not large versus small farms. It is whether a company largely funded by the government can consider itself private and independent of the government. Farm size is a reflection of the personal wealth of their owners. The Agritrans farm is an abnormality in that the size of the plantation bears no relationship to the private holdings of its owners because it was acquired using government funds in secrecy without the government inviting other bids for agricultural projects. Even though the government has the capacity to inform the public - through a national television company, a radio station, and an official newspaper, The Monitor, it failed to do so.
Jovenel has said that Agritrans will keep 80% of profits, and give 20% as pay to workers. Never has he reported nor has any government official said that the government will keep any part of the profits. Never has the government said that it is providing oversight of this company and monitoring its activities so that it can collect on the money that it has given. Never has any government official qualified the money given to Jovenel as loans to be repaid with or without interest. The fact is that Agritrans cannot be a private company entitled to keep whatever it makes as it was created with government assets. The issue is not large versus small farms but rather do we own it, since we funded it.
Another issue with Agritrans is that its board members and shareholders are not known. The use of public assets brings forth the issue of the rights of the people to know who are the recipients of those assets. Such information helps to make the public aware of nepotism where government officials can use funds to support a company owned by those very same public officials, their family, or close associates. It is not acceptable to gloss over these issues. Companies wishing to remain anonymous should stay clear from public funds and state lands.
As for the argument that Agritrans will help to increase national production, no study of the diversity and quantity of agricultural production in the area has been cited before the displacement of workers who produced nearly all their produce for local production while exporting a small fraction. Arguments about increasing production are prejudicial. They assume without facts that regional food supply will be increased over an unknown baseline even though 70% of that production will be distributed outside the region. The financial incentive to export even more is great as evident by the 150 million dollars Jovenel has presented as either profits or contractual agreements for exports.
Moreover an increase in Agritrans' or Jovenel's banana production would not necessarily translate into a meaningful increase in national production because the banana plantation functions in a Tax Free Zone. Future Haitian governments will be incapable of taxing what Agritrans ships overseas. The bananas are produced using government funds but are then sheltered from government taxes while generating revenue for its shareholders. The government of Haiti has not presented itself as one of those shareholders.
As for job creation, it makes no sense that mechanized farming would lead to net job creation. Nowhere has mechanized farming done this. Yet Jovenel speaking for Agritrans brags of creating 3,000 jobs. Even if we were to accept this self reported number, Agritrans and the government has not divulged how many families have been displaced from their land and from “State” land. Total job creation makes no sense when we do not know the sum total of people displaced.
These are some of the problems that are grossly wrong with Agritrans. It is not an issue of large versus small farms. The Agritrans deals are not public, we can only go by the worrisome statements made by the newly created company's spokesperson. They allow for the taking of government funds, public and private lands, while functioning in an area outside the control of government- A Tax Free Zone. The issue is not small farms versus plantations, it is that Agritrans appears to be a company financed or created by the Haitian government, declared incorporated by Presidential decree just one week before the reopening of parliament, but strategically divorced from the government to give wide latitude to its secret shareholders, and this is to put it mildly. All of this is done while paying Agritrans workers the minimum wage of about 3 dollars daily, less than HASCO paid in the 1930's. This low salary is paid after stripping the inhabitants from the land and giving them a wage that effectively locks them in poverty. So the problem is not and issue of large vs small farms. It is an issue of propping up a private company using public assets while the company gets to keep the lion's share of the profits in a government Tax Free Zone.