Cuban State Responsible for Scarcity of Agricultural, Meat Products /
Serafín, 69, never had toys. For his 8th birthday the gifts from his
father were a pick and hoe. He woke him at 5 AM and they went to work in
a row of onions. He told him, "If you want your children and
grandchildren to have toys, you will have to get it out of the earth.
Mother earth will give you your present and your future. There is no
other option." And that is how it has been for over five decades.
A descendant of immigrants from the Canary Islands, strong as a ceiba
tree and with the blood pressure of a young man of 20, Serafïn is the
owner of a small farm in the province of Sancti Spiritus, 300 kilometers
east of Havana.
To get to his farm one must walk a long way and then cross the Zaza
community dam, which looks like an inland sea, go along a dusty road
where the invasive marabou weed and greenery stretch as far as the
horizon and, after crossing a puddle somewhat dried up by the drought,
reach a small village of poor people who eat little and poorly but who
drink a lot of rum. Just behind the little village is Serafïn's farm.
In its good days it had dozens of fruit trees and 120 cows. Fertile land
that produced hundreds of hundred-pound sacks of onions, rice, greens
Old Serafïn and his children and grandchildren still live on the land.
But the agricultural policies of the government do not inspire them to
work. "Look, Acopio (a state-owned company) pays only two pesos and 80
centavos for a kilo of onions. And the people at the market buy them at
10 pesos a pound. In 2008, after President Raúl Castro began to pay
three pesos a liter in order to stimulate milk production, I delivered
almost a thousand liters a day. Things were not going bad for me. But in
November of last year they raised the cost of a kilowatt from 0.75 to
1.30 an hour. And from the 2,500 pesos (100 dollars) I used to pay a
month for electricity I now pay almost 10,000 pesos (400 dollars), which
raises my cost of milk and agricultural production," the farmer says
while smoking a hand-rolled cigar.
According to Serafín, the government gives them supplies at
non-subsidized prices. "They sell us a gallon of gas for 6 dollars. And
the seeds and work tools are very expensive. Due to the drought, my
family has had to make investments and buy pumps to extract water from
wells and reservoirs, which makes our use of electricity skyrocket. If
you add to this the fact that 80% of our production is sold to the
government at laughable prices, you can understand why there is so much
empty land full of blight and marabou weed."
Serafín says that for a while he preferred to sell the cows to the
government instead of using them for milk production. "The last straw,"
says Augusto, Serafín's youngest son, "is that at times we have to steal
our own crops". And when the inspector comes they claim that the crops
were stolen (robbery has become a daily occurrence in the Cuban
countryside), in order to have a little extra food for selling in the
farmers markets where the law of supply and demand is in effect.
"The government forces you to lie and fix the figures. I think that not
even the old feudal owners demanded they be given such a high percentage
of products. In countries that are agricultural powerhouses like the
United States, the government subsidizes the farmers. This is logical,
since you don't fool around with agriculture when you have to feed 300
million people, in addition to exporting food for 2 billion more all
over the planet," comments Serafín, a guajiro who likes to read and keep
For him, if the regime really wants to fill family tables with
vegetables, fruit and pork and for people to have coffee with milk for
breakfast, it should create a law under which the State is not sold more
than 15 or 20% of production.
"Laws that give you a guarantee. No regulations or orientations, that
are exchanged for others according to its convenience. I do not know any
small landholder that is not upset with the government. That is why when
people travel around the island they see kilometers and kilometers of
land that is not being cultivated. Nobody wants to work the land. There
is very little stimulus," says Serafín.
Before 1959, he remembers, Cuba had more than enough fruits and
vegetables and even exported them. "But for that to happen, the
government must change its abusive methods. The main responsibility for
the scarcity of agricultural and cattle products is the Cuban
government," he states. That simple.
Translated by S. Solá
June 25 2011