HAVANA, Nov 24 (Reuters) – Cuba has carried out a root and branch
restructure of its sugar industry in a last-ditch attempt to keep mills from
folding in the face of collapsing output.
In recent weeks, the government has made 56 sugar mills subsidiary
companies of state sugar monopoly AZCUBA and incorporated local plantations
into the new entities, allowing them to leverage recent reforms that include
setting wages and cane prices and keeping control of 80% of their export
The Communist-run country produced just over
800,000 tonnes of raw sugar last season, its worst performance since 1908 and
just 10% of a high of 8 million tonnes in 1989. Experts consulted by Reuters
say 2022’s production could be even lower.
“The industry has more or less collapsed. The situation is worse
this year than last and it will take time to bring it back,” a local sugar
expert said, requesting anonymity as he was not authorized to talk with
The Caribbean island nation has suffered from both the effects of the
coronavirus pandemic and tough new U.S. sanctions, reducing its hard currency
earnings over the past two years by around 40%, shrinking the economy 13% and
reducing resources available to mills and plantations.
Provincial media has been filled with stories of cane shortages, mill
repairs behind schedule, and a lack of tires, batteries and fuel to harvest and
Cuba’s economy long relied heavily on sugar exports, but output has
plunged since the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991.
In central Sancti Spiritus province, for instance, some 45% of land that
should be cultivated for sugar was fallow, provincial Communist Party newspaper
Escambray reported last week.
A national Council of Ministers communique from a June 2021 meeting said
a review of the industry was underway “to guarantee in the future the
vitality of these activities, which have meant so much economically and in the
history of Cuba.”
The harvest usually begins in November and runs into May, but this year
the first mill will open on Dec. 5, with the bulk beginning to grind in late
December into January. Last year, 38
mills opened and this year there will be fewer, according to provincial media
Key sugar-producing provinces Villa Clara and Las Tunas provinces
estimate output of around 125,000 tonnes each, slightly more than last season,
while Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, Granma and Artemisa provinces expect smaller
crops than the previous season. Other provinces have yet to publish their
Cuba consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tonnes of sugar a year and has
an agreement to sell China 400,000 tonnes annually. It was unclear how much sugar Cuba exported
this year and whether it imported any to meet local demand.
Like other industries, agriculture and cane cultivation face structural
problems in the import-dependent command economy which the government is only
just addressing. New reforms, including a steep devaluation of the local
currency and decentralization of export earnings are aimed at once again
boosting production. At the same time,
industry experts consulted by Reuters said there is no money to begin recovery
to export, nor access to multilateral financing.
With the population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and
tourism – the driver of the economy and foreign exchange – opening up, over
time the situation may improve, the sugar expert said.
“But they will need to go further with reforms, attract foreign investment or divert money from other sectors like tourism,” he said.
alcanzar un resultado significativo y sostenible se necesita avanzar mucho más
y ofrecer claridad y confianza al campesino de que la política para el sector
agrícola se va a distanciar, definitivamente, de los errores del pasado.
September 05, 2021
los últimos dos años hemos escuchado hablar al gobierno cubano de
descentralización de los municipios y del reforzamiento de la autonomía de las
autoridades locales para definir estrategias de desarrollo, manejar recursos y
atraer inversión extranjera, entre otros temas. Donde más se ha avanzado en
esta dirección ha sido en la agricultura.
gobierno ha venido publicitando su nueva estrategia para la comercialización de
los productos agropecuarios y para la formación de los precios de los
alimentos. Las autoridades de los ministerios de Agricultura, de Finanzas y de
Economía han venido destacando que con la nueva política agropecuaria se
eliminó el monopolio de Acopio, la empresa estatal dedicada a la
comercialización mayorista. La directora de comercialización del Ministerio de
Agricultura refería en el programa televisivo Mesa Redonda el 2 de agosto de
2021: “No hay monopolio. Todos son una familia de comercializadores”.
analistas y medios de prensa se hicieron eco de la noticia sobre la eliminación
de los topes de precio en la agricultura cubana desde el 30 de julio. Sin
embargo, se debe tener cuidado sobre la interpretación y alcance de esta
noticia, pues no necesariamente indica un cambio definitivo en la política de
precios en el sector.
Acopio y la “familia de comercializadores”
revisan las normas publicadas en la Gaceta 49 del 4 de mayo de 2021, se
aprecia que, en efecto, las nuevas normas permiten una mayor participación de
diferentes actores no estatales en la comercialización agrícola. Sin embargo,
en el Artículo 18 del Decreto 35 del Consejo de Ministros, se especifica que
“los productores pueden
vender a otras formas de comercialización existentes en el país, los
productos que por problemas logísticos y financieros de las entidades
acopiadoras y comercializadoras no puedan ser comprados…”
contratados que no se adquieran por las entidades acopiadoras y
comercializadoras por causas imputables a estas, se pueden vender por las
cooperativas o productores […] a otras formas de comercialización
existentes en el país.”
se mantiene Acopio con el monopolio para la primera opción de compra. Los
campesinos y cooperativas agropecuarias solo pueden vender en los mercados lo
que no contrata Acopio, o lo que contrata y luego no puede comprar por alguna
en esta lógica de “economía de municipio” se define en el mismo Decreto que
“los consejos provinciales y los consejos de la Administración Municipal
ejercen la supervisión y control del funcionamiento del sistema de
comercialización agropecuaria”.Y se encuentran entre las funciones de
los consejos provinciales:
Definir los destinos a
contratar y los precios de los productos agropecuarios que circulan entre
sus municipios a partir de la propuesta de sus comités de contratación.
Monitorear los precios
establecidos por los consejos de la administración municipal.
Controlar el funcionamiento
de los mercados agropecuarios.
así esta figura en la economía de municipio nombrada “comité de contratación de
las producciones agropecuarias”. Estos están presididos por el gobernador de la
provincia y el intendente del municipio. Lo interesante de estos comités es que
incluyen entre de sus integrantes, además de autoridades locales y las empresas
estatales en la agricultura, a cooperativas y campesinos individuales.
hacer propuestas para la contratación, esos comités municipales tienen como una
función primordial “concertar para su territorio los precios de acopio
mayoristas y minoristas y los precios por acuerdo aplicables a los productos
agropecuarios que no tengan precios centralizados, de conformidad con los
márgenes comerciales establecidos…”
de esta norma, las autoridades cubanas vienen señalando que ya hay muy pocos
precios topados centralmente, que estamos en un escenario de “precios
concertados”. Ciertamente, es muy importante tomar en cuenta a los productores
en la definición de estos precios, pero las normas publicadas no especifican
cómo van a funcionar estos comités de contratación. No parece que vayan a
operar bajo un sistema de votación. No conocemos qué poder de negociación real
tendrán las cooperativas y campesinos en estos comités.
que espera el gobierno de la “economía de municipio” tiene como explicación que
en la base se tiene mejor información sobre los problemas, los desequilibrios y
las necesidades locales. El argumento es que esto permitirá tomar mejores
decisiones que cuando se tomaban centralmente en los ministerios en La Habana.
Ello puede tener algo de razón, pero también es cierto que la sustitución de
los mecanismos de mercado para la formación de precios es una tarea compleja
aun a nivel municipal, sobre todo si los productores no participan en una
negociación real en igualdad de condiciones con las autoridades locales.
capacidad profesional en todos los municipios para asumir todas estas nuevas
tareas es otra duda legítima. También pueden aparecer dudas sobre la
efectividad de tener precios agrícolas muy diferentes entre los municipios. Las
diferencias injustificadas de precios por regiones, y la dificultad para
entender a cabalidad en un comité todas las dinámicas e interrelaciones detrás
de los mercados agrícolas, pueden terminar enviando señales equivocadas a los
productores y generando nuevas distorsiones en la agricultura cubana.
la norma deja un amplio grado de discrecionalidad para el funcionamiento de los
comités de contratación, lo más probable es que aparezcan algunas buenas
experiencias y otras muy malas. Tal vez lo más positivo de esta
municipalización sea permitir recoger información sobre las mejores prácticas
para luego poder reproducirlas. Seguramente las mejores experiencias estarán en
los comités que concerten precios más cercanos a los valores que reflejan los
mercados, toda vez que emitirán las señales que se requieren para acomodar las
producciones y la demanda de cada uno de los alimentos a la realidad municipal
Topes de precio e intermediarios
confusión que se genera sobre la nueva política de comercialización agrícola se
origina en la Resolución 320 de 2021 del Ministerio de Finanzas y Precios del
30 de julio de este año. En esta norma, efectivamente, se eliminaron los
referentes de precios máximos agropecuarios fijados en las resoluciones 18 y 84
de inicios de año.
resoluciones 18 y 84, simplemente, habían fijado un límite a los precios
agropecuarios para evitar un aumento desmedido como consecuencia de la reforma
monetaria y de la devaluación de la tasa de cambio oficial del peso cubano. Y
como las estimaciones oficiales sobre el impacto inflacionario de la
devaluación han quedado muy por debajo de la inflación de mercado, estos
límites quedaron obsoletos, resultaban contraproducentes y se eliminaron. Sirva
también este ejemplo reciente para mostrar lo difícil que resulta entender los
múltiples factores que mueven los precios en una economía.
Resolución 320 elimina estos límites máximos en los precios, pero no
necesariamente debe interpretarse como un cambio en la política de precios. Los
comités de contratación están vigentes, así como la autoridad de los gobiernos
locales para definir los precios de los productos agropecuarios que circulan
entre sus municipios.
ministra de Finanzas lo dejó bien claro en el programa televisivo Mesa Redonda
el pasado 2 de agosto: “Se elimina el tope, pero sin detrimento de la facultad
de autoridades provinciales y municipales para establecer precios minoristas de
venta a la población que tomen en cuenta las necesidades y realidades
territoriales. Ratificamos que esas facultades se mantienen, como también se
mantiene la responsabilidad de las autoridades locales en el enfrentamiento a
precios especulativos y abusivos” (Mesa Redonda, 2 de agosto de 2021).
asunto en el que insisten las nuevas normas para la comercialización agrícola
es en la eliminación de intermediarios. Se busca que sean los mismos
productores quienes se ocupen de comercializar sus producciones en los
mercados, con vistas a abaratar los precios finales que llegan al consumidor.
La directora de comercialización del Ministerio de Agricultura lo denominó
“autogestión” (Mesa Redonda, 2 de agosto de 2021).
ello puede ser factible y beneficioso para los productores a escala local,
parece estarse negando, una vez más, el papel que cumplen los comercializadores
especializados en la cadena de valor de cualquier mercado de mayor escala.
artículo 20 del referido decreto limita la comercialización mayorista de
productos agropecuarios a empresas estatales, cooperativas agropecuarias,
poseedores de tierras y vendedores mayoristas de productos agropecuarios.
último caso, se trata de un vendedor mayorista que tendría que operar bajo la
figura de trabajador por cuenta propia. Sin embargo, la norma no permite la
presencia de pymes privadas, cooperativas no agropecuarias especializadas en
comercialización, cooperativas de segundo grado, o empresas mixtas o
extranjeras para estos fines. En el artículo 30 sobre la comercialización
minorista se relacionan los mismos actores, solo añadiendo como novedad a las
cooperativas no agropecuarias creadas para esos propósitos.
conocemos que vienen en camino otras normas para reforzar el papel de la
empresa estatal socialista en la agricultura. Pero la historia y datos
irrefutables nos sugieren que nada nuevo y provechoso podemos esperar de ellas.
El ministro de la Agricultura anunció en el programa televisivo Mesa Redonda
del 18 de agosto: “ya está la base para el diseño del sistema empresarial
estatal agroindustrial municipal, que ya está en fase de aprobación del Comité
Ejecutivo y después irá a su implementación”.
de la agricultura, ganadería y silvicultura cubano apenas presentó un
crecimiento promedio anual de 0,5% durante la década pasada. La sustitución de
importaciones, la soberanía alimentaria y el vaso de leche para cada cubano
quedaron como promesas incumplidas de los primeros Lineamientos.
llamada “actualización” acumuló innumerables transformaciones económicas,
organizativas y cambios en las normas jurídicas, pero sin querer introducir
verdaderas lógicas e incentivos de economía de mercado en el sector
que sí se ha movido en esta dirección con determinación y ha transformado
radicalmente su modelo económico, logró un crecimiento sostenido promedio anual
del sector agropecuario de 3,9% durante los años 90 y de 3,8% en los 2000. Con
estos crecimientos logró incrementar su capacidad de producción de alimentos en
50% durante la primera década y la duplicó al cabo de veinte años.
Con la economía
de municipio estamos nuevamente en el terreno de lo experimental, a pesar
de todos los fracasos que el gobierno cubano ha acumulado durante tres décadas
cuando ha tratado de relajar a medias o ha intentado solo “actualizar” el
modelo de command economy, también llamado socialismo burocrático, entre
otras posibles denominaciones.
asegura que el cambio de la escala territorial (a los municipios) vaya a
garantizar el éxito de los mecanismos administrativos en la contratación y en
la formación de precios que no funcionaron a nivel nacional. Ya es
conocida la resistencia del gobierno cubano a considerar reformas plenas de
mercado. Cuando existe una variante intermedia, esta siempre ha sido la
En resumen, sí se aprecia en las normas publicadas este año una flexibilización de los mecanismos de comercialización, pero sin que se lleguen a instrumentar verdaderos incentivos y señales de mercado para el sector agropecuario. Es posible que se vean algunos resultados positivos puntuales. Pero para alcanzar un resultado significativo y sostenible se necesita avanzar mucho más y ofrecer claridad y confianza al campesino de que la política para el sector agrícola se va a distanciar, definitivamente, de los errores del pasado.
One of the many existing theories about the origin of the name “Cuba” refers
to a word from the natives of the island that meant “cultivated land.” Although
we are not sure that this is correct, we do know that the immense possibilities
for agriculture, together with an excellent climate and a good geographical
position, marked the value of a Caribbean island that otherwise lacked great
Throughout Cuban history, the development of agriculture retained a position
of special interest. Since the colonial era, the island became the largest
producer of sugar cane in the world, a trend that increased during a large part
of the republican years.
Perhaps because of this, anyone would have thought that after the supposed
return of the land to its “owners,” the nascent revolution would focus on the
development of one of the island’s main riches. But was it so?
Today, 529 years after Cuba was discovered, and after 61 years of land
mismanagement, Cuban agriculture faces one of its worst crises marked by a
chronic inability to produce food. It is in this context that the government
has announced the application of 63 measures with the aim of rescuing an agricultural
system that, although recognized as strategic, lies inert before our eyes.
Seven groups of stakeholders, among which are agricultural executives, experts,
academics, and prominent producers, were consulted in their formulation.
The measures have been described by the current minister of agriculture,
Ydael Pérez, as “(…) unprecedented in Cuban agriculture (…)”. They include
initiatives such as an agricultural development bank, insurance expansion, the
repeal of some of the old “obstacles,” and the legalization of trade of meat
and bovine milk. Additionally, some restructuring carried out in the Ministry
of Agriculture (MINAG) and in the cooperatives stand out, as well as a certain
level of autonomy placed in the hands of state companies, provincial
governments, and their local executives. Finally, the creation of an Innovation
Committee and other new institutions are also notable and aim to achieve the
long-awaited increase in production that Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel
These measures could be considered the prelude to “changing the way of
thinking,” as the head of agriculture pointed out. However, and despite the
high expectations generated by this supposed call for change, the results of
these measures do not satisfy the expectations of the people and especially
those of farmers, who lack decision making freedom.
A real change, which is becoming more and more necessary, should begin with
profound transformations in MINAG, not just superficial ones. Transformations
that encompass management chain cadres, intermediaries, and the producers
themselves, but above all, that revolutionize the state enterprise system,
where the greatest inefficiencies in production and marketing are found. It
won’t be until then that we reach the goal of substituting imports and building
a sustainable offer, which Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz spoke about on
May 10 during the meeting to present this document.
So, one wonders, under what conditions are these measures announced?
The Tarea Ordenamiento (or “Organizing Task” or “OT”) was
introduced on January 1st, 2021, a process promoted by the Cuban
Government which is trying to save the island’s economy through monetary and
exchange rate unification, income reform, and the elimination of excessive
subsidies, among others. The O.T. shocked Cuban farmers with the low prices
attributed to their production in relation to the high costs of necessary
supplies and services. As is to be expected, this combination was terribly
inefficient and as a consequence discouraged production. In the middle of this
scenario, the government adjusted electricity and water rates, agricultural
aviation, and others, in some cases at the expense of the state budget. But did
it solve the problem?
The answer is, no, it did not. The fundamental objective of the new export
and import capabilities (which must be done through state foreign trade
companies) and the offers of agricultural inputs, tractors, and other equipment
in stores that sell in Freely Convertible Currencies (dollars, euros, etc.) was
to motivate farmers to invest, but it is unlikely they will carry out bold
ventures without having guarantees of returns on their investments or that
their profits will be respected. Let us not forget that the Constitution itself
stipulates the limits for the accumulation of wealth in non-state hands.
The crisis in Cuban agriculture is serious, and the solutions to its main
problems—lack of production, little application of science and technology, low
stimulation of the productive forces, etc.—need the immediate commitment of all
The 63 measures recently announced are still insufficient, since they do not
completely eliminate the Cuban farmers’ lack of decision-making freedom; however,
these are the prelude to future changes.
The current government has before it the responsibility of pulling Cuba off
the cliff, amidst the adversities imposed by the United States sanctions and
the Covid-19 pandemic, which demands a true openness to citizen participation
and creativity from all Cubans.
he street demonstrations that broke out all over Cuba on July 11 are an unprecedented event in the more than 60 years since the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.
But why now? This essay explores the historic, economic and political factors
that help to clarify the causes of Cuba’s July 11,
considers the role of the United States, and briefly reflects on
On Sunday, July 11, Cuba erupted in street
protests. Unlike the major street protest that took place in 1994 and was limited to the Malecón, the long multi-lane
Havana road facing the Gulf of Mexico, the July 11
outbreak of protest was national in scope. There were protests in many towns
and cities, including Santiago de Cuba in the east, Trinidad in the center of
the island, as well as Havana in the west. The growing access to social media
in the island played an important role in the rapid spread of the protests; no
wonder the government immediately suspended access to certain social media
sites and brought all telephone calls from abroad to a halt.
The street presence and participation of Black women and men was notable
everywhere. This should not be surprising since Black Cubans are far less
likely to receive hard currency remittances from abroad even though over 50% of the population receive some degree of financial
support through that channel. These remittances have become the key to survival
in Cuba, particularly in light of the ever-diminishing number of goods
available in the peso-denominated subsidized ration book. Cuban Blacks have also
been the victims of institutional racism in the growing tourist industry where
“front line” visible jobs are mostly reserved
for conventionally attractive white and light skinned women and men.
The demonstrators did not endorse or support any political program or
ideology, aside from the general demand for political freedom. The official
Cuban press claims that the demonstrations were organized from abroad by
right-wing Cubans. But none of the demands associated with the Cuban right-wing
were echoed by the demonstrators, like the support for Trump often heard in
South Florida and among some dissident circles in Cuba. And no one called for “humanitarian intervention” espoused by Plattistas
(Platt Amendment, approved by Congress in 1901and
abolished in 1934, gave the United States the right
to militarily intervene in Cuba), such as biologist Ariel Ruiz Urquiola,
himself a victim of government repression for his independent ecological
activism. The demonstrators did speak about the scarcity of food, medicine and
essential consumer items, repudiated President Díaz-Canel as singao—a
phrase that in Cuba translates as “fucked” but
means a wicked, evil person, and chanted patria y vida
(fatherland and life). “Patria y Vida” is
the title of a very popular and highly polished rap song by a group
of Cuban Black rappers (available on YouTube.) I have seen and heard the
song more than a dozen times to enjoy it as well as to search for its
explicit and implied meanings including in its silences and ambiguities.
“Patria y Vida” counterposes itself to the old
Cuban government slogan of “Patria
o Muerte” (“Fatherland or Death”). While that slogan may have made sense
in the 1960s when Cuba was faced with actual
invasions, it borders on the obscene when voiced by second generation
bureaucrats. It is certainly high time that the regime’s macho cult of violence
and death be challenged, and this song does it very well.
But what does it mean to implicitly repudiate the year 1959,
the first year of the successful revolution, as the song does? There was no
Soviet style system in Cuba at the time and the year 1959
is not equivalent to the Castro brothers. Many people of a wide variety of
political beliefs fought and died to bring about the revolution that overthrew
the Batista dictatorship. The song does express many important democratic
sentiments against the present Cuban dictatorship, but it is unfortunately
silent about the desirable alternative, which leaves room for the worst
right-wing, pro-Trump elements in South Florida to rally behind it as if it
True to form, President Díaz-Canel called on the “revolutionaries”
to be ready for combat and go out and reclaim the streets away from the
demonstrators. In fact, it was the uniformed police, Seguridad del Estado (the
secret police), and Boinas Negras (black berets, the special forces) that
responded with tear gas, beatings and hundreds of arrests, including several
leftist critics of the government. According to a July 21 Reuters report, the authorities had confirmed that they
had started the trials of the demonstrators accused of a variety of
charges, but denied it according to another press report on July 25. These are summary trials without the benefit of
defense counsel, a format generally used for minor violations in Cuba but
which in this case involves the possibility of years in prison for those
Most of the demonstrations were angry but usually peaceful and only in a few instances did the demonstrators behave violently, as in the case of some looting and a police car that was overturned. This was in clear contrast with the violence frequently displayed by the forces of order. It is worth noting that in calling his followers to take to the streets to combat the demonstrators, Díaz-Canel invoked the more than 60-year-old notion that “the streets belong to the revolutionaries.” Just as the government has always proclaimed that “the universities belong to the revolutionaries” in order to expel students and professors that don’t toe the government’s line. One example is René Fidel González García, a law professor expelled from the University of Oriente. He is a strong critic of government policies, who, far from giving up on his revolutionary ideals, has reaffirmed them on numerous occasions.
But Why Now?
Cuba is in the middle of the most serious economic crisis since the 1990s, when, as a result of the collapse of the
Soviet bloc, Cubans suffered innumerable and lengthy blackouts due to the
severe shortage of oil, along with endemic malnutrition with its accompanying
The present economic crisis is due to the pandemic-related decline of
tourism, combined with the government’s long term capital disinvestment and
inability to maintain production, even at the lower levels of the last five years.
Cuba’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) fell by 11% in 2020 and only rose by 0.5% in 2019, the year before the
pandemic broke out. The annual sugar crop that ended this spring did not even
reach 1 million tons, which is below the 1.4 million average of recent
years and very far below the 8 million tons in 1989. The recent government attempt to unify the various
currencies circulating in Cuba — primarily the CUC, a proxy for the
dollar, and the peso — has backfired resulting in serious inflation that was predicted
among others by the prominent Cuban economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago. While the CUC
is indeed disappearing, the Cuban economy has been virtually dollarized with
the constant decline of the value of the peso. While the official exchange rate
is 24 pesos to the dollar, the prevailing black
market rate is 60 pesos to the dollar, and it is
going to get worse due to the lack of tourist dollars. This turn to an ever
more expensive dollar, may be somewhat restrained in light of the government’s
recent shift to the euro as its preferred hard currency.
Worst of all, is the generalized shortage of food, even for those who have divisas,
the generic term for hard currencies. The agricultural reforms of the last
years aimed at increasing domestic production have not worked because they are
inadequate and insufficient, making it impossible for the private farmers and
for the usufructuarios (farmers who lease land from the government for
20 year terms renewable for another 20 years) to feed the country. Thus, for example, the
government arbitrarily gives bank credits to the farmers for some things but
not for others, like for clearing the marabú, an invasive weed that is
costly to remove, but an essential task if crops are to grow. Acopio, the
state agency in charge of collecting the substantial proportion of the crop
that farmers have to sell to the state at prices fixed by the government is
notoriously inefficient and wasteful, because the Acopio trucks do not
arrive in time to collect their share, or because of the systemic indifference
and carelessness that pervade the processes of shipping and storage. This
creates huge spoilage and waste that have reduced the quality and quantity of
goods available to consumers. It is for reasons such as these that Cuba imports
70% of the food it consumes from various countries
including the United States (an exemption to the blockade was carved out in 2001 for the unlimited export of food and medicines to
Cuba but with the serious limitation that Cuba has to pay in cash before the
goods are shipped to the island.)
The Cuban economist Pedro Monreal has called attention to the overwhelming
millions of pesos that the government has dedicated to the construction of
tourist hotels (mostly in joint ventures with foreign capital) that even before
the pandemic were filled to well below their capacity, while agriculture is
starved of government investments. This unilateral choice of priorities by the
one-party state is an example of what results from profoundly undemocratic
practices. This is not a “flaw” of the Cuban
system any more than the relentless pursuit of profit is a “flaw” of American capitalism. Both bureaucracy and
the absence of democracy in Cuba and the relentless pursuit of profit in the
United States are not defects of but constitutive elements of
Similarly, oil has become increasingly scarce as Venezuelan oil shipments in
exchange for Cuban medical services have declined. There is no doubt that
Trump’s strengthening of the criminal blockade, which went beyond merely
reversing Obama’s liberalization during his second period in the White House,
has also gravely hurt the island, among other reasons because it has made it
more difficult for the Cuban government to use banks abroad, whether American
or not, to finance its operations. This is because the U.S. government will
punish enterprises who do business with Cuba by blocking them from doing
business with the United States. Until the events of July 11,the
Biden administration had left almost all of Trump’s sanctions untouched. Since
then, it has promised to allow for larger remittances and to provide staff for
the American consulate in Havana.
While the criminal blockade has been very real and seriously damaging, it
has been relatively less important in creating economic havoc than what lies at
the very heart of the Cuban economic system: the bureaucratic, inefficient and
irrational control and management of the economy by the Cuban government. It is
the Cuban government and its “left” allies in
the Global North, not the Cuban people, who continue, as they have for decades,
to blame only the blockade.
At the same time, the working class in the urban and rural areas have
neither economic incentives nor political incentives in the form of democratic
control of their workplaces and society to invest themselves in their work,
thus reducing the quantity and quality of production.
Health Situation in Cuba
After the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in the
early spring of 2020, Cuba did relatively well
during the first year of the pandemic in comparison with other countries in the
region. But in the last few months the situation in Cuba, for what are still
unclear reasons except for the entry of the Delta variant in the island, made
a sharp turn for the worse, and in doing so seriously aggravated the
economic and political problems of the country. Thus, as Jessica Domínguez
Delgado noted in the Cuban blog El Toque (July 13),
until April 12, a little more than a year
after the beginning of the pandemic, 467 persons had
died among the 87,385
cases that had been diagnosticated as having Covid-19.
But only three months later, on July 12, the number
of the deceased had reached 1,579
with 224, 914 diagnosed
cases (2.5 times as many
as in the much longer previous period).
The province of Matanzas and its capital city of the same name located 100 kilometers east of Havana became the epicenter of
the pandemic’s sudden expansion in Cuba. According to the provincial governor,
Matanzas province was 3,000
beds short of the number of patients that needed them. On July 6, a personal friend who lives in the city of
Matanzas wrote to me about the dire health situation in the city with
a lack of doctors, tests, and oxygen in the midst of collapsing hospitals.
My friend wrote that the national government had shown itself incapable of
controlling the situation until that very day when it finally formulated
a plan of action for the city. The government did finally take
a number of measures including sending a substantial number of additional
medical personnel, although it is too early to tell at the time of this writing
with what results.
Cuban scientists and research institutions deserve a lot of credit for
the development of several anti-Covid vaccines. However, the government was
responsible for the excessive and unnecessary delay in immunizing people on the
island, made worse by its decision to neither procure donations of vaccines
from abroad nor join the 190-nation strong COVAX
(Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access) sponsored by
several international organizations including the World Health Organization
(WHO), an organization with which the Cuban government has good relations.
Currently only 16% of the population has been fully
vaccinated and 30% has received at least one dose of
The medical crisis in the province and capital city of Matanzas fits into
a more general pattern of medical scarcity and abandonment as the Cuban
government has accelerated its export of medical personnel abroad to strengthen
what has been for some time its number one export. This is why the valuable
family doctor program introduced in the 1980s has
seriously deteriorated. While the Cuban government uses a sliding scale
(including some pro bono work) in what it charges its foreign government
clients, Cuban doctors get an average of 10 – 25% of what the foreign clients pay the Cuban government.
Needless to add, Cuban medical personnel cannot organize independent unions to
bargain with the government about the terms of their employment. Nevertheless,
going abroad is a desired assignment for most Cuban doctors because they
earn a significant amount of hard currency and can purchase foreign goods.
However, if they fail to return to Cuba after their assignments are over, they
are administratively (i.e., not judicially) punished with a forced exile
of 8 years duration.
The Political Context
Earlier this year, the leadership old guard, who fought the Batista regime
and are in their late eighties and early nineties, retired from their
government positions to give way to the new leadership of Miguel Díaz-Canel
(born in 1960) as president and Manuel Marrero Cruz
(born in 1963) as prime minister. This new
leadership is continuing Raúl Castro’s policy of economic and social
liberalization without democratization. For example, in 2013
the government liberalized the regulations that controlled the movement of
people to make it easier for most Cubans to travel abroad. However, at the same
time, the government made it virtually impossible for many dissidents to leave
the country, by for example delaying their departure so they could not make it
on time to conferences held abroad, and by creating a list of some 200 “regulados” (people
subject to regulatory rules) that are not allowed to leave the country at all.
It is important to point out that as in the case of other measures adopted by
the Cuban government mentioned earlier, these actions continue the policies of
Fidel and Raúl Castro, in which political and administrative decisions are made
outside of the regime’s own judicial system. The same applies to the hundreds
of relatively brief detentions that the government of Raúl Castro carried out
every year, especially to try to impede public demonstrations not controlled by
the government (a police method that only works for previously planned
political protests, unlike the ones that took place on July 11).
The One-Party State
The one-party state continues to function as under Fidel and Raúl Castro’s
rule. In reality, however, the Cuban Communist Party (PCC, its Spanish acronym)
is not really a party — that would imply the existence of other parties.
Neither is the PCC primarily an electoral party although it does firmly control
from the top the periodic so-called elections that always result in the
unanimous approval of the political course followed by the authorities.
Sometimes people disillusioned with the existing corrupt parties in Latin
America and even in the United States itself, react with indifference if not
approval to the Cuban one-party state because they perceive elections as
reinforcing corrupt systems. Thus such people think that is better to have one
honest political party that works than a corrupt multi-party system that
doesn’t work. The problem with this type of thinking is that one-party
bureaucratic systems do not work well at all, except perhaps to thoroughly
repress any opposition. Moreover, corruption sooner or later works its way into
the single party system as history has repeatedly shown. In the case of Cuba,
Fidel Castro himself warned in a famous speech on November 17, 2005, that the revolution
was in greater danger to perish because of endemic corruption than because of
the actions of counterrevolutionaries.
The organizational monopoly of the PCC — explicitly sanctioned by the Cuban
constitution — affects far more than elections. It extends its power in
a highly authoritarian manner to control Cuban society through the
so-called mass organizations that function as transmission belts for the
decisions taken by the PCC’s Political Bureau. For example, the CTC, the
official trade union, is the transmission belt that allows the Cuban state to
maintain its monopoly of the organization of Cuban workers. Beyond enforcing
the prohibition of strikes, the CTC is not an organization for the defense of
working class interests as determined by the workers themselves. Rather, it was
established to advance what the ruling PCC leadership determines are the
workers’ best interests.
The same control mechanisms apply to other “mass
organizations” such as the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC) and to other
institutions such as editorial houses, universities and the rest of the educational
system. The mass media (radio, television and newspapers) continue to be under
the control of the government, guided in their coverage by the “orientations” of the Ideological Department of the
Central Committee of the PCC. There are however, two important exceptions to
the state’s control of media organs: one, is the internal publications of the
Catholic Church. Nevertheless, the Cuban Catholic hierarchy is extremely
cautious, and the circulation of its publications is in any case limited to its
parishes and other Catholic institutions. A far more important exception
is the Internet, which the government has yet been unable to place under its
absolute control and remains as the principal vehicle for critical and
dissident voices. It was precisely this less than full control of the Internet
that made the nationwide politically explosive outbreaks of July 11 possible.
Where is Cuba Going?
Without the benefit of Fidel Castro’s presence and the degree of legitimacy
retained by the historic leadership, Díaz-Canel and the other new government
leaders were politically hit hard by the events of July 11,
even though they received the shameful support of most of the broad
international Left. The fact that people no longer seem to be afraid may be the
single largest threat for the government emerging from the events on July 11. In spite of that blow, the new leadership is on course
to continue Raúl Castro’s orientation to develop a Cuban version of the
Sino-Vietnamese model, which combine a high degree of political
authoritarianism with concessions to private and especially
At the same time, the Cuban government leaders will continue to follow
inconsistent and even contradictory economic reform policies for fear of losing
control to Cuban private capital. The government recently authorized
the creation of private PYMES (small and medium private enterprises), but it
would not be at all surprising if many of the newly created PYMES end up in the
hands of important state functionaries turned private capitalists. There is an
important government stratum composed of business managers and technicians with
ample experience in such sectors as tourism, particularly in the military. The
most important among them is the 61-year-old Gen.
Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, a former son-in-law of Raúl Castro, who
is the director of GAESA, the huge military business conglomerate, which
includes Gaviota, the principal tourist enterprise in the island. It is
significant that he recently became a member of the Political Bureau of
Perhaps this younger generation of business military and civilian
bureaucrats may try to overcome the rentier mentality that 30 years
of ample Soviet assistance created among the Cuban leadership as witnessed the
failure to modernize and diversify the sugar industry (as Brazil did) during
those relatively prosperous years that ended in 1990. To
be sure, the U.S. economic blockade contributed to the rentier mentality by
encouraging a day-to-day economic survival attitude rather than of
increasing the productivity of the Cuban economy to allow for a more
Finally, what about the United States? Biden is unlikely to do much in his
first term to change the United States’ imperialist policies towards Cuba that
were significantly aggravated by Trump. Whether a possible second
Democratic administration in Washington beginning in 2025
will do anything different remains an open question.
There is, however, a paradox underlying the U.S. government’s Cuba
policy. While U.S. policy is not at present primarily driven by ruling class
interests but, rather, by electoral considerations, particularly in the highly
contested state of Florida, it is not for that reason necessarily less harsh
or, what is more alarming, less durable. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, probably
the most politically active business institution in the United States has
advocated the resumption of normal business relations with Cuba for many years.
Thomas J. Donohue, its long-time director who retired earlier this year,
visited Cuba in numerous occasions and met with government leaders there. Big
agribusiness concerns are also interested in doing business with Cuba as are
agricultural and other business interests in the South, Southwest and Mountain
States represented by both Republican and Democratic politicians. However, it
is doubtful that they are inclined to expend a lot of political capital in
achieving that goal.
This places a heavy extra burden on the U.S. Left to overcome the
deadlock, which clearly favors the indefinite continuation of the blockade,
through a new type of campaign that both zeroes in on the grave aggression
and injustice committed against the Cuban people without at the same time
becoming apologists for the political leadership of the Cuban state.
Be that as it may, people on the Left in the United States have two key
tasks. First, they should firmly oppose the criminal economic blockade of Cuba.
Second, they should support the democratic rights of the Cuban people rather
than an ossified police state, in the same way that they have supported the
struggle for human rights, democracy, and radical social and economic change in
Colombia and Chile in Latin America as well as Myanmar and Hong Kong
“CUBANS HAVE always been resourceful,” says Ana, the owner of a
private farm-to-table restaurant near Havana. “But now we need to be magicians
and acrobats.” The communist island is facing its worst shortage of food since
the 1990s. Finding ingredients was never easy in a place which imports around
70% of its food. Over the past year it has become nearly impossible. When
grocery shops are empty, as is so often the case, Ana tries the internet or the
black market, only to find that prices are prohibitively high. Farmers no
longer want to sell produce to her, she says, as they need to eat it
“CUBANS HAVE always been resourceful,” says
Ana, the owner of a private farm-to-table restaurant near Havana. “But now we
need to be magicians and acrobats.” The communist island is facing its worst
shortage of food since the 1990s. Finding ingredients was never easy in a place
which imports around 70% of its food. Over the past year it has become nearly
impossible. When grocery shops are empty, as is so often the case, Ana tries
the internet or the black market, only to find that prices are prohibitively
high. Farmers no longer want to sell produce to her, she says, as they need to
eat it themselves.
government blames the shortage of food mostly on sanctions imposed by the
United States—sanctions which, on June 24th, the UN General Assembly voted to condemn, as it has done nearly every year
since 1992. But since 2001 the sanctions have exempted food. Indeed, the United
States is the largest exporter of food to Cuba, though last year those imports
were at their lowest level since 2002.
external factors have affected the food supply. The jump in global food prices,
which in the year to May surged by 40%, the largest increase in a decade, has
made imports more expensive. But the main problem is the government’s lack of
hard currency. Tourism, normally 10% of GDP, has atrophied because of the pandemic: whereas 4.2m people visited in
2019, just over 1m did last year, nearly all in the first three months of the
year. Remittances have also suffered. Before covid-19, commercial airlines
would operate as many as ten flights a day between Miami and Havana, all packed
with cash-toting mulas. But now only a handful of flights go to Havana
each week. In addition, this year’s harvest of sugar—one of Cuba’s main
exports—was the worst in more than a century, as a result of drought (the
dollar shortage also sapped supplies of fertiliser and petrol).
The government is trying desperately to eke out
dollars and skimp on imported goods. Cubans can no longer buy greenbacks from
state-operated exchanges at the airport. State-owned bakeries are replacing a
fifth of the imported wheat flour they use in bread with substitutes made from
home-grown corn, pumpkin or yucca, much to the dismay of consumers, who have
complained that bread now tastes like soggy corn. The sale of biscuits has been
limited in certain cities to cut back even more on imports of flour.
Since February, in a desperate attempt to collect
hard currency, the government has required that foreigners pay for their
seven-day mandatory stay in a state-owned quarantine hotel in dollars (since
June, this has even applied to some Cubans). To earn more from its diaspora,
the state also operates e-commerce sites through which Cubans abroad can pay in
dollars or euros for food and gifts to be delivered to people on the island.
Indeed many Cubans abroad are trying to help their
family members stave off hunger by sending their own care packages. But even
these have become harder and more costly to post. Goods from the United States
that once took two weeks to deliver can now take up to four months to arrive,
as shortages of fuel and trucks in Cuba make the final leg of the delivery
Bungled policy responses have made things worse. On
June 10th the Cuban central bank announced that, from June 21st, Cubans would
not be able to deposit dollars into their bank accounts for an undisclosed
amount of time. This is despite the fact that, in order to buy goods in
state-owned shops, Cubans need to have a prepaid card loaded with dollars. They
will now have to exchange their dollars for euros or other currencies, which
involves a fee. Emilio Morales, the head of the Havana Consulting Group in
Miami, thinks this was a way to scare people into depositing more before the
Rather than stabilise the economy, the policy is
likely to do the reverse. Some exchange houses in Miami soon ran out of euros.
Cuban banks were overwhelmed by queues of panicking people trying to deposit
the dollars they needed to buy groceries. “Cuba has 11m hostages and is
expecting Cuban exiles to pay their ransom,” says Mr Morales. Ricardo Cabrisas,
the deputy prime minister, was recently in Paris negotiating another extension
on the roughly $3.5bn of loans owed to foreign governments—the island has been
in arrears since 2019. An ultimatum from creditors may help explain the
government’s desire to hoover up greenbacks.
Despite making some attempts to liberalise the economy, the government is bafflingly poor at boosting agricultural production or wooing foreign investors. Firms producing food in Cuba earn only pesos, which have little value internationally, but must buy almost all their inputs abroad in a foreign currency. The government requires farmers to sell their harvest to the state at uncompetitive prices and imposes draconian rules on livestock management. Up until last month it was illegal to slaughter a cow before it had reached an advanced age, as determined by the state. Now farmers may kill them either to sell the meat or to eat it themselves. But before they do so, they must jump through a series of hoops, including certifying that the cow has produced at least 520 litres of milk a year. They are also not allowed to let their herd shrink overall, and so can only slaughter one cow for every three calves they add to it—a tall order in the long run, mathematically. As it is, Cuba is having trouble maintaining its existing cattle herd: last year, in the province of Las Tunas alone, more than 7,000 cows died from dehydration. Farmers have to complete paperwork and wait a week for approval, too. “The process of applying to eat a cow is enough to make you lose your appetite,” says a farmer in Bahía Honda.
Cubans are no strangers to difficult times. Eliecer
Jiménez Almeida, a Cuban filmmaker in Miami, was a child during the “special
period” of hardship after the fall of the Soviet Union, and remembers how his
grandmother sold her gold teeth in exchange for soap, just so that he and his
siblings could take a bath. For him and for many Cubans, the question is not
how many more of the same indignities their people can endure, but how much
Discontent was slightly less likely when Fidel Castro was in power. He had charisma and mystique that neither his brother and successor, Raúl, nor Cuba’s current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, can replicate. What is more, the Cuban diaspora is larger and wealthier and the internet has shown Cubans that many of their economic difficulties are created by their leaders, not the United States. The best way to stave off popular discontent would be to implement more and bigger economic reforms, at a faster pace, starting with farms and small businesses. It is a measure of Cubans’ disillusionment that the old revolutionary cry of “Hasta la victoria siempre” (On to victory, always) has largely been supplanted by the longsuffering “¿Hasta cuándo?” (How much longer?) ■
noticia anunciada por el Gobierno cubano de que la zafra apenas alcanzó 816.000 toneladas de azúcar
no constituye sorpresa alguna, sino la confirmación de que el sistema es la
estampa misma del fracaso. A esta noticia hay que agregar que seguramente el
azúcar comenzará a escasear en la Isla, como lo hacen ya una larga lista de
alimentos y productos ausentes no solo en las tiendas en moneda nacional, sino
también en las de divisas.
de todo es que difícilmente el Gobierno tenga recursos para importar el
déficit de azúcar que cubra la demanda interna del país. El régimen ha
convertido al que fuera el mayor productor de azúcar del mundo en un
una mala noticia para una población que siente los primeros embates de una
hambruna ya presente en decenas de miles de hogares.
suele ser costumbre, el régimen ha achacado la baja productiva al embargo de
EEUU. Lo cierto es que apenas 38 centrales participaron en la zafra, lo
cual representa el 24.35% del total de los centrales azucareros confiscados en
1959. La cifra de producción alcanzada en 2021 es la menor lograda en más de
vicepresidente de la empresa AZCUBAdijo al diario oficial Granma que los
pobres resultados alcanzados en la zafra del 2021 fueron consecuencia de
“la crisis económico-financiera y energética, acentuada por la
intensificación del bloqueo económico, comercial y financiero del Gobierno de
EEUU y los efectos de la pandemia de la COVID-19”.
1959 el Gobierno cubano se adueñó de la industria azucarera más poderosa
del mundo a punta de pistola, sin pagar un centavo a los dueños de los 161
ingenios azucareros que fueron confiscados, nadie imaginó que 62 años después,
dicha industria se fuera a convertir en un amasijo de chatarra incapaz de
alcanzar los valores de producción que se obtenían cuando las zafras se hacían
Castro no solo robó y arruinó una industria que era la más moderna en aquel
entonces, y la que más producía, sino que arruinó la vida y el futuro de
millones de cubanos y la economía de un país.
posible esta galopante involución en el tiempo?
génesis de la debacle de la industria azucarera pasa por la combinación
de varios factores que han incidido en su desarrollo. En primer lugar, hay que
señalar el tema de la propiedad de la tierra y la organización empresarial que
rige la industria. En segundo lugar, la base legal, es decir, las leyes que hoy
dan soporte al desarrollo de esa industria en la Isla. Y en tercer lugar, la
falta de visión estratégica de quienes hoy dirigen la industria; en otras
palabras, la falta de visión estratégica del Gobierno.
siglo Cuba era uno de los productores de azúcar más importantes en el
mercado internacional. Sin embargo, el mal desempeño de su industria azucarera
acumulado en los últimos 62 años de economía centralizada empujó al país a
convertirse en un mercado importador de azúcar.
En 2018, la
producción de azúcar en la Isla apenas llegó a 1.1 toneladas métricas.
Dicha cifra representó un 16.3% menos que la producción alcanzada en 1905. La producción
de 816.000 toneladas lograda en 2021 confirma claramente el impactante declive
de la industria.
Figura 1. Serie histórica de la producción de azúcar (TM), 1905-2021.
Fuente: Havana Consulting Group a
partir de los datos publicados por la Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas e
figura nos muestra claramente la debacle en la que se ha sumido la industria
azucarera cubana en los últimos 30 años, desde que desaparecieron los
mercados de la URSS y el campo socialista de Europa del Este.
En 1958 el país tenía 161 centrales funcionando a toda máquina y una fuerte presencia de inversión extranjera, sobre todo norteamericana. Del total de centrales en activo, 36 pertenecían a empresas norteamericanas, 121 estaban en manos de empresarios privados cubanos, tres eran de españoles y uno de franceses.
international food and shipping prices and low domestic production are further
squeezing import-dependent Cuba’s ability to feed its people.
traditionally imports by sea around 70% of the food it consumes, but tough U.S.
sanctions and the pandemic, which has gutted tourism, have cut deeply into
foreign exchange earnings.
than a year Cubans have endured long waiting lines and steep price rises in
their search for everything from milk, butter, chicken and beans to rice, pasta
and cooking oil. They have scavenged for scant produce at the market and
collected dwindling World War II-style food rations.
month the Communist-run government announced flour availability would be cut by
30% through July. Diorgys Hernandez,
general director of the food processing ministry, said when he announced the
wheat shortage that “the financial costs involved in wheat shipments to
the country” were partly to blame. That
was bad news for consumers who had been buying more bread to make up for having
less rice, pasta and root vegetables at the dinner table.
eat a lot of bread and there is concern there is going to be a shortage of
bread because that is what people eat the most,” Havana pensioner and cancer
survivor Clara Diaz Delgado said as she waited in a food line.
not grow wheat due to its subtropical climate. The price of the commodity was
$280 per tonne in April, compared with $220 a year earlier.
government has also said the sugar harvest was short of the planned 1.2 million
tonnes by more than 30%, coming in at less than a million tonnes for the first
time in more than a century. Cuba will
have trouble making up for a shortage of domestically produced sugar as
international prices are around 70% higher than a year ago.
the pain, the cost of international container shipping is up as much as 50%
over the last year and bulk freight more.
Food and Agriculture Organization reported its international food price index
was up 30.8% through April compared with the same month last year, and the
highest since May 2014.
state has a monopoly on foreign trade and purchases around 15% of the food it
imports from the United States for cash under a 2000 exception to the trade
Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, which follows
the trade, said sales fell 36.6% last year to $163.4 million, compared with
2019. They recovered in the first quarter, reaching $69.6 million, though that
represented less food due to higher prices.
Cuba’s most important U.S. import, is badly affected. A U.S. businessman who
sells chicken to Cuba said he shipped drumsticks at 24 cents a pound in January
and 48 cents in April. He did not wish to be named. “Resuming global demand, increased prices for
product inputs and labor shortages suggest that commodity prices will not
decrease soon,” Kavulich said.
economy declined 11% last year and according to local economists contracted
further during the first trimester of 2021 as a surge in the new coronavirus kept
tourism shuttered and much of the country partially locked-down. The government reported that foreign exchange
earnings were just 55% of planned levels last year, while imports fell between
30% and 40%.
container traffic was down 20% through April, compared with last year,
according to a source with access to the data, who requested anonymity.
government has not published statistics for the notoriously inefficient and
rustic agricultural sector since 2019 but scattered provincial and other reports
on specific crops and livestock indicate substantial declines for rice, beans,
pork, dairy and other Cuban fare. This
was confirmed by a local expert who requested anonymity and said output was
down by double digits due to a lack of fuel and imported fertilizer and
May 10 (Reuters) – With Cuba’s sugar harvest poised to draw to a close as the
coronavirus pandemic rages, production stands at little more than two-thirds of
planned levels, an industry official said on Monday, indicating the smallest
crop in more than a century.
another blow to the ailing Cuban economy, Jose Carlos Santos Ferrer, first vice
president of state sugar monopoly AZCUBA, told the state Cuban News Agency that
as of end-April, production had reached 68% of the Communist-run country’s
plan. With the planned target announced earlier this year as 1.2 million tonnes
of raw sugar, that means a harvest of 816,000 tonnes – the lowest since 1908.
was also hit hard by a shortage of foreign exchange to purchase fuel,
agricultural inputs and spare parts due to the COVID-19 pandemic and fierce
U.S. sanctions. Mills were temporarily shuttered due to fuel and cane
shortages, as well as COVID-19 outbreaks, Santos Ferrer said.
consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tonnes of sugar a year domestically and
has an agreement to sell China 400,000 tonnes annually. It was not clear if
authorities planned to cut domestic consumption, exports to China or both.
sugar harvest begins in November and usually winds down by May, when yields
plummet as the summer heat and rainy season set in. Even if the country manages
to reach 900,000 tonnes of raw sugar, that would still mark the lowest since
output has averaged around 1.4 million tonnes of raw sugar over the last five
years, compared with an industry high of 8 million tonnes in 1989.
longer a top export, and behind other foreign revenue earners such as medical
services, tourism, remittances and nickel, sugar still brings Cuba hundreds of
millions of dollars a year from exports, including derivatives. It’s also used
to produce energy, alcohol and animal feed at home.
other industries, agriculture and cane cultivation face structural problems in
the import-dependent command economy which the government is only just
last six months it has adopted monetary and other market-oriented reforms, but
these will take time to kick in.
economist Ricardo Torres said the measures established a minimum base to
relaunch the sugar sector, but were not nearly enough. “As the overall reform progresses, new
opportunities will emerge for the sector, but it requires a fresh look to begin
the recovery, possibly with outside advice,” he said.
economy shrank 11% last year and continued its decline through April, local
economists said, as a COVID-19 surge gutted tourism and combined with shortages
of even the most basic goods to hit retail sales and agriculture in general, as
well as sugar.
“The results are not good and we are at the start of the rainy season which effectively ends the harvest,” a local sugar expert said, confirming the country would not reach a million tonnes for the first time in over a century and requesting anonymity as he was not authorised to talk with journalists.
announced that it was loosening a decades-old ban on the slaughter of cattle
and sale of beef and dairy as part of agricultural reforms as the Communist-run
country battles with food shortages.
will be allowed to do as they wish with their livestock “after meeting state
quotas and always with a guarantee it will not result in a reduction of the
herd,” the Communist Party daily, Granma, said late on Tuesday.
the government made it illegal for Cubans to slaughter their cows or sell beef
and byproducts without state permission after Hurricane Flora killed 20% of the
number of cattle and milk production improved through 1989 when the Soviet
Union collapsed. Since then, the herd has remained stagnant at around 70% of
the 1963 level, and powdered milk imports have increased.
can be fined for killing their own cows, leading many to have only one for
milk, as if another dies by accident, they face an investigation. Others hide
calves in the barn. Still others team up with rustlers, though they face up to
15 years behind bars if caught.
led to the local joke that you can get more prison time for killing a cow than
a human being.
economists say deregulation of the agricultural sector could help boost
government is expected to announce further agricultural measures in a
roundtable discussion on state television as it battles a grave economic crisis
that has resulted in food shortages and long lines for even the most basic
products such as rice, beans and pork, let alone milk, butter, cheese, yogurt
Caribbean island nation imported more than 60% of the food it consumed before
new U.S. sanctions on top of the decades-old trade embargo and then the
COVID-19 pandemic, which decimated tourism, left it short of cash to import
agricultural inputs from fuel and feed to pesticides, let alone food.
growth contracted 11% in 2020 and imports 40%, according to the government.
production has stagnated in recent years and declined dramatically in 2020,
though the government has yet to publish any data.
November, the government said it would allow farmers, private traders and food
processors to engage in direct wholesale and retail trade if they met
The state owns 80% of the arable land and leases most of that to farmers and cooperatives, and until recently had sold them inputs in exchange for up to 90% of their output plus a set margin.