By Osmel Ramirez Alvarez
HAVANA TIMES – In Mayari, there is an ice factory that has been abandoned for fifteen years or so and its concrete infrastructure has fallen victim to human exploitation and the erosion of natural elements. It seems that we no longer need ice in the municipality, or that it is cheaper to bring it in from 90 kms away in Holguin. Although I’m not sure how true that is.
The canned food factory known as “La encurtidora” was knocked down too, a long time before. The neighborhood where it once stood is still called “La encurtidora” by locals as if it were a nostalgic memory. But here in this region, thousands of tons of fruit are wasted every year because they aren’t processed and they are no longer being planted because of limited commercial opportunities.
Placero and plum tomatoes are the clearest example of this, which are great for tomato paste. As there isn’t a steady market for them, they aren’t being planted to their full potential. If we had a factory, even a rustic one like we used to, how many tomato plants would be planted and how many tomatoes could we save from falling to waste? Or, how many more would be planted?
Around a decade ago, a local guy created his own canned food factory by hand after realizing that there was a niche in the market. His factory had dozens of tanks of puree, huge ovens and large cooking vessels. It looked like a mill from the nineteenth century but it employed about a dozen people.
Even though it belonged to a cooperative, the terrible day came when a police operation shut it down and took it all apart. They confiscated the puree and he wasn’t allowed to produce it on this scale anymore. Everything carried on like it had up until then, when only farmers and housewives made puree for their own consumption and a little extra to sell on. But as you would expect, the supply doesn’t last very long on the market.
Sometimes, trucks from other provinces come to sell cans of tomato puree. It seems that they are more flexible in other parts of the country when it comes to applying the centralized system’s bureaucratic hurdles, and cooperatives are allowed to have their own mini industries. However, this isn’t a regular supply. Nobody knows what day the trucks are coming, nor where they are going to park and sell. It’s a matter of luck.
If we really need to think like a country, like Diaz-Canel has said we do, then why are they investing fuel in bringing a product from so far away when we can produce it here ourselves? Every time I pass by the abandoned ice factory building on Leytevidal street, I can’t help but see the great potential it has to install a canned food factory.
Mayari’s workshops could do this. For example, at the old nickel factory where a services company called Nicarotec is currently based, they could build everything they needed in two to three months. There are more than enough raw materials in metals, equipment and super-qualified labor. We just need initiative, productive and economic thinking, a sense of belonging. Things like this would really make all the difference.
Dozens of leaders loaded with papers and reports travel down the same street and in front of the same worn-away infrastructure, in their cars. But they don’t see what I and any other ordinary citizen can see; they don’t even think about it, or feel pained, or have any projects in mind. They are in their own little politicking bubble (the art of blowing up balloons a street philosopher would say), where the Cuban people aren’t their main concern because they weren’t the ones to assign them to their posts. It seems like another dimension.
The small dose of municipal autonomy allows us to manage a small part of the budget as we see fit: 1%. Which would be enough for us to get an economic initiative off the ground which would quickly have an impact on the lives of Mayari residents.
It would ensure a constant supply of canned fruits and tomato puree, which is valued as much as it is scarce today; maybe even for a more affordable price because it would cut high transportation costs. As well as stimulating production of the raw material in the fields, bringing in revenue and creating jobs. The question we all need to be asking ourselves is: why isn’t this being done?