Haiti

Haiti commerce ministry dismayed by fire at essential oil factory

 
 
Haitian entrepreneur Pierre Leger, owner of Agri-Supply Company in Les Cayes.
Haitian entrepreneur Pierre Leger, owner of Agri-Supply Company in Les Cayes.
Peter Andrew Bosch / Miami Herald

jcharles@MiamiHerald.com

Haitian authorities are investigating a fire at a factory that produces essential oil for some of Europe’s top fragrance houses.

The fire occurred Tuesday morning and created “significant” damage to part of Agri-Supply Company, S.A. in the city of Les Cayes in southwest Haiti.

The company is one of the largest employers in the region. Its operations indirectly supports about 25,000 farming families, who grow the drought-resistant root vetiver, which is used in perfumes and after-shave lotions.

Farmers sell the root, found in plentiful supply in the region, to Agri-Supply. The company’s 125 workers then extract its essential oil and package it for shipment to Europe.

“This fire is a disaster that strikes at the very heart of the region's economy,” Haiti’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a press release Wednesday. It said it was “dismayed” by what had happened. There were no injuries or deaths.

Commerce Minister Wilson Laleau recently honored the factory’s owner, Pierre Leger, for his contributions to Haiti’s economy.

Leger said he doesn’t know if the fire, which damaged part of the factory, was an accident or a criminal act. It took about seven hours to put out the flames, which started at about 10 a.m., he said.

“I am putting myself at the mercy of the authorities to figure it out,” said Leger, who coincidentally was playing host this week to a four-person delegation from Europe that came to visit the factory’s operations.

Born and raised in Les Cayes, Leger is a well-known figure in the rural region, which like the rest of Haiti suffers from a lack of employment opportunities. Leger is known for his strong advocacy of job creation over aid for Haiti.

He studied agronomy in Europe, and after returning to Haiti went back to Les Cayes to help develop the region.

In addition to his vetiver production, he and an American business partner have for years advocated for the development of a private port and airport in the region to further spur development to the area.

Leger said since the fire, he has received an outpouring of support from Haitians in-country and abroad. While recognizing how the factory has helped improved their families’ lives, some have shed tears, while looking at the damaged structure.

“It’s amazing the amount of cars and trucks that have pulled up,” he said. “This has given me strength.”

Read more Haiti stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State, tours the construction site of a housing development near the Caracol Industrial Park with Senator Patrick Leahy and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis in October 2012.

    Haiti

    U.S. housing effort in Haiti criticized — again

    The U.S. government’s largest aid agency says despite criticism of its efforts to build thousands of new homes in Haiti after the country’s tragic Jan. 12, 2010 earthquake, it will continue to help Haitians find permanent housing.

  • Report finds faults in US housing effort in Haiti

    An effort by Washington to build housing for Haitians in the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake has fallen short and exceeded costs, a U.S. government report said Tuesday.

  •  
A National Police officer readies to fire tear gas at protestors during an anti-goverment protest in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday April 15, 2014. The protesters called for the resignation of President Michel Martelly.

    Amnesty: Haiti human rights activist threatened

    A leading human rights activist in Haiti has been threatened for his work, Amnesty International said Tuesday, marking the latest documented case of attacks or threats against watchdog groups in the Caribbean nation.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category