Cuba's Small Farmers Increased Output, Sales in 2009
HAVANA – Cuban small farmers and agricultural cooperatives increased
their sales of products such as milk, rice and pork to the government in
2009 after President Raul Castro introduced measures to boost domestic
food production, the official media reported.
The president of the government-supported National Association of Small
Farmers, Orlando Lugo Fonte, was quoted as saying the overall results
achieved were "positive" but that 2009 also showed "how far the sector
still needs to go in terms of organization, efficiency and discipline."
Lugo Fonte, a member of the Council of State, the communist-ruled
island's supreme governing body, said there were "advances with a
minimum amount of resources" in rice, milk, intensive bull raising and
pork that prove Cuba can increase domestic food production – as Castro
as urged, calling it a matter of national security.
Gen. Castro, who took the reins in July 2006 after older brother Fidel
was stricken with a severe illness, has repeatedly complained about
Cuba's poor agricultural productivity, noting that half the island's
arable land is sitting unused.
Raul said last year that the "maximum priority" is increasing domestic
farm production, given rising international prices and Cuba's reliance
on imports for more than 80 percent of the food consumed by the island's
11.2 million residents.
According to Lugo Fonte, 2010 will be an even better year if "the
transformations, in terms of both application and process, eliminate the
bureaucratic decisions that hinder utilization and development of human
and technical potential."
Sales of milk to the government by cooperatives rose 22 percent last
year compared to 2008, while more than 40,000 people who have applied
for permission from the government to use abandoned lands under usufruct
contracts are devoting their efforts to cattle raising.
That increase is the result of a pilot program carried out in more than
half of the country's municipalities to promote efforts to supply fresh
milk to grocery stores as a substitute for powdered milk imports, which
have steadily decreased.
The peasant cooperative sector also accounted for 70 percent of pork
sales to the island's government by domestic producers, while small
farmers have started experimenting with bull raising and are looking at
sugarcane production, also to substitute imports.
"I don't want to create false expectations, but in terms of beef output
we're on a good path," Lugo Fonte said.
"Given the positive results in 2009, it's clear that the will of (small)
producers is exceeding the initial expectations," the official added.
Cuba is suffering one of its worst economic crises since the revolution
that brought Fidel Castro to power in January 1959.
The world economic slump has squeezed Cuba's two main sources of hard
currency: nickel exports and tourism, while Cuban families have
experienced a decline in remittances from relatives in the United States.
The Cuban economy grew just 1.4 percent in 2009, far from an initial
forecast of 6 percent.
Latin American Herald Tribune – Cuba's Small Farmers Increased Output,
Sales in 2009 (10 January 2010)