Cuba: among the FAO’s worst ‘students’
OSMAR LAFFITA ROJAS | La Habana | 9 Nov 2015 – 5:21 pm.
What do the agricultural statistics reveal about the praise lavished on
Havana by the UN representative for Food & Agriculture?
In the daily edition of Granma on October 8 there was an article
entitled “The FAO recognizes the Cuban government’s promotion of food
According to Granma the representative of the UN’s Food and Agriculture
Organization, Dr. Theodor Friedrich, stated that the island is one of
the FAO’s best “students.”
Several days later, on October 15, to mark the 70th anniversary of the
founding of FAO and World Food Day, an interview with Dr. Friedrich
appeared in the same paper.
In response to the question of how he assesses the cooperation between
the Cuban government and the organization he represents, Friedrich said
that Cuba boasts a special standing for the FAO, which aims to hold the
country up as an example of long-term sustainable agriculture and food
The FAO representative said that Cuba has been the only country to meet
the Millennium Development Goals with regards to hunger, and spoke
glowingly of its distribution of regulated products, school nutrition
and gardens, homes for the elderly, and attention to vulnerable sectors
of the population, despite it being a country with limited resources.
In short, Friedrich said that Cuba is an invaluable ally for the FAO.
When the reporter for Granma asked his interviewee how the lifting of
the embargo might lead Cuban agriculture to make the leap forward it
needs, he stated: “The embargo is obsolete. We hope it is lifted,
because it has an impact on agriculture and food security for the
people. Free trade between the agricultural sectors of the United States
and Cuba will not only make possible greater accessibility, but also
increased production and competition between producers and importers. “
With his remarks Dr. Friedrich has done nothing but mask the dire plight
of Cuban agriculture.
On 27 May, 2013 he was interviewed for the weekly publication
Trabajadores, yielding the article “Cuba is an Example of Food
Security.” In it Dr. Friedrich stated that: “Cuba is one of the
exemplary countries, having achieved food security for its people.”
This assertion by the FAO representative, however, is not supported by
the data appearing, for example, in the 2014 Statistical Yearbook put
out by the National Statistics and Information Office. Below are some of
Cuban state farms and the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC),
which together total 3,746 in number, own some 3,552,500 hectares. Of
these, at the end of 2014, they were farming on just 1,269,000. Despite
having the best land and machinery, due to their appalling efficiency
these organizations only took advantage of 35.7% of the total arable
land available to them.
The 601 Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPA) and 2,385 Credit and
Services Cooperatives (CCS) – the latter composed of 1,079,600 members,
including usufruct users of free land – collectively hold 2,813,399
hectares. At the end of 2014 they were cultivating 1,322,800 hectares –
representing just 47.7% of the total arable land.
The lands of the agricultural enterprises and UBPCs, together with those
of CCS, small farmers, and usufruct beneficiaries, come to a total of
At the close of 2014, however, only 2,591,800 hectares were being
cultivated, just 40.7% of the total arable land in Cuba. 3,774,990
hectares of land, meanwhile, were covered in sicklebush and weeds.
Agricultural production in 2014 totalled 7,959,023 tons. Of this amount,
state farms produced only 677,467, accounting for 8% of total
production. Cooperatives, peasants and usufruct beneficiaries produced
7,108,217, representing 89% of agricultural production achieved last year.
What the numbers show is that it is the private and cooperative sectors
that are really responsible for achieving food security, not government
entities and UBPCs.
These statements about sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty are
pure pro-government PR.
In reality the government plays a minimal role in achieving the food
security so applauded by Dr. Theodor Friedrich.
Source: Cuba: among the FAO’s worst ‘students’ | Diario de Cuba –