Minister scolds rice producers
Due to "disorganization", Cuba must import more rice than planned this
year — twice as much than it produces — official weekly Trabajadores
In a meeting with rice farmers, Deputy Agriculture Minister Juan Pérez
Lamas said a lack of resources, combined with passivity among growers
has produced "deplorable losses," the newspaper said.
The setback comes despite major investments in rice cultivation and
cooperation programs with China and Vietnam. An import substitution
program by the agriculture ministry begun in 2009 aims at replacing 59
percent of rice imports by 2013. The government is gradually removing
rice from the ration booklet and moving distribution to less-regulated
markets, just as rice prices are skyrocketing.
While the number of hectares under rice cultivation has multiplied,
scarce tractors, rice mills and driers, and decaying irrigation canals
that lose half the water have kept yields low.
Pérez told the growers that, amid the government's tough adjustment
programs, it would be "healthy to clarify to producers up to what point
the state is committed to help." Instead of waiting for machines that
never come, harvests could also be done by hand, he said.
"Rice production production is advancing faster than the development of
the national infrastructure to support it," the Trabajadores article
said, pointing out that Cuba last year spent seven times more on rice
production than Vietnam, one of the world's biggest exporters. "It's
absurd and anti-economical that we can't find in time the $250 it costs
to produce a ton of rice here, but then we find the $500 of the price it
costs to bring [a ton of rice] from Asia."
Cuba consumes more than 600,000 tons of rice per year.