20 NOV 2013 – 10:05PM
Cuban tobacco farms ‘show other side of cigar trade’
Cuban cigars are the country’s most lucrative export, but tobacco
farmers are often shortchanged in the government-controlled industry.
By Kristofor Lawson
From its climate to its nightlife Cuba has become a popular tourist
hotspot with close to 3 million visitors annually. But despite all the
tourist attention, Cuba is probably best known for what it exports – cigars.
Canadian photographer David Wile spent some time travelling through Cuba
with his girlfriend and visited some of the tobacco farms near the rural
town of Vinales.
Vinales is located south-west of the capital Havana and is an area well
suited to growing tobacco.
“It’s very picturesque,” Says Wile. “It’s a little different landscape
from a lot of Cuba.”
“This is like their sort of farming, sort of agricultural hub of Cuba.”
Cuba produces more than 80 million cigars each year – bringing in more
than $440 million AUD in revenue. But with the government controlling
all of Cuba’s tobacco industry many of the farmers don’t see the benefits.
“Most of the tobacco that’s farmed – actually it’s all the governments
property,” says Wile. “So they don’t really reap the rewards of the
sales from their tobacco – they just make a set wage.”
“Their average salary is not much… probably 10 to 25 American dollars
“They don’t make a lot of money on paper, or a lot of profits from the
jobs that they’re working. But they do have a lot of government
benefits. So whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing I don’t know.”
Cuba is home to more than 11 million people – with all the citizens
given access to government services such as a national health and
By many standards people in Cuba and even the tobacco farmers are well
off – but when individual Cuban cigars can sell for almost $70 AUD (£40)
on the streets of London, someone is clearly making a lot of profit.
“You’d like to think that it goes to the citizens, to help pay for their
healthcare, and to help pay for their school and their education and
what not,” says Wile. “But then again we do live in a world of corruption.”
The farmers in Vinales don’t have modern machinery – everything is done
by hand using old farming techniques. While this may be a product of
their poverty, Wile says it helps give them an authenticity that you
don’t often find in a modern economy.
“The farmers, wear really cool, old, almost it looks like army
clothing,” says Wile. “It looks like something that like, Che Guevara
would wear with his… army guys travelling around sort of 50 years ago
overthrowing the government.”
“You feel like you’re really photographing someone authentic, that’s not
part of the modern world. That isn’t you know, part of like the
consumerist, you know, generic sort of fashions of capitalism.”
Produced and edited by Kristofor Lawson.
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Source: “Cuban tobacco farms ‘show other side of cigar trade’ | SBS
News” – http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2013/11/20/cuban-tobacco-farmers