Evidence of the State purchasing company’s negligence, just one example of many
HAVANA TIMES – “We would have filled a cart (…) to go out [in the streets] and sell it, even in the nearby neighborhoods, but we do not have the authorization,” the mango producer Ricardo Montaña Téllez complained on Monday, talking about his 130 boxes of fruit that was rotting without the state company Acopio nor the municipal government of Camagüey doing anything to collect the harvest.
This is another year in which mango production in Cuba turns into days of anguish and disappointment for the farmers. This time the producers who run the UBPC (Basic Unit of Cooperative Production) Farms #12 and #17, knocked on all possible doors, but to no avail.
After the rains of the last days of May, the ripening of the mangos on the province’s farms accelerated, according to what the farmers told the local newspaper Adelante. In the case of the local UBPC, they had a contract with the municipal Acopio for a current delivery of 278 tons, which was going to be destined for the industry.
Agustín Garrido Ramos took advantage of the early ripening and together with his family picked the mangoes on Farm 17, but the days passed and neither the UBPC directors nor Acopio did anything to collect the harvest. The only response that the farmer heard, after calls and negotiations, was: “Separate out the rotting mangoes and measure it in boxes and take photos of it, so when Acopio comes to collect it, the evidence is available.”
Ten days later, on June 7, the official entities collected part of the merchandise, by which time 320 boxes (12,800 pounds) had gone bad. “I gave up on harvesting it. To have it piled up here and see how it is rotting, I just leave it. It hurts to see how food is lost and we can’t even give it away,” complains Garrido Ramos.
The same happened with the Montaña Téllez harvest on Farm 12. Of the 165 boxes that he was able to collect, only 35 could be used, the rest were lost.
Elio Veny Martínez González, president of the local UBPC, told the local newspaper that they were going to “make a demand” to the State to pay them the money they lost and to ensure that the workers would not remain unpaid.
“A breakdown at the El Mambí canning factory coincided with the days of early ripening and there was no destination for the fruit we had already harvested. We told Acopio and the provincial government but there was no solution. This product is very expensive in the establishments and for that reason it is offered for sale slowly,” explains Martínez González.
According to the local newspaper, the company Conservas de Vegetales de Camagüey cannot process all the mango production in the territory due to limited industrial capacity, lack of packaging and repeated breakdowns in one of the main factories, El Mambí, where the machinery they are working with is 50 years old.
Two other plants were only able to process “400 tons, more than the 100 planned” in May, and for this month they will exceed “800, of the estimated 200,” according to the directors of Conservas de Vegetales.
The farmers of the affected UBPC, after much fighting, requested a permit from the Council of the Administration of the municipality to sell 90 boxes in the Puerto Príncipe and La Belén districts, “but a week after having the mango harvested,” says Martínez González.
For his part, Orestes Martínez Hernández, who is in charge of the harvest in the production unit, says that Acopio “does not have the capacity to move everything.” However, he insists: “We are in the best disposition to work the shifts that are necessary and until whatever hour, so that it is not lost.”
Added to this problem with transportation is that, coincidentally, this UBPC, which owns one of the 32 mini-industries in the province subordinate to the Ministry of Agriculture with the capacity to process 200 quintals (1 quintal = 33 acres) a day, cannot do so due to the lack of packaging.
The loss of tons of mango coincides with a rise in its price in markets throughout the island, where the fruit sells for between 6 and 15 pesos a pound, depending on its quality. Despite the increase in wages as of January this year, many retirees and low-income people cannot afford one of the most emblematic fruits of the Cuban countryside.