Centralized production / marketing plans don’t seem to be working
At a time of great food shortages nationwide
HAVANA TIMES – Yamile Bombino, an agricultural producer from the municipality of Cabaiguán, in Sancti Spíritus, opted to denounce the incompetence of the state-owned Acopio on April 3. The Sancti Spritus woman has a contract for the delivery of 400 quintals (1 quintal = approx. 100 pounds) of tomatoes with the State purchasing company, but the harvest is spoiling in the field.
“Two weeks ago the two presidents of the cooperatives were notified of the [tomato] harvests,” she wrote on her Facebook profile and the post quickly went viral. Bombino added that currently Acopio has not sought a solution for the fate of the tomatoes. “It is not fair that this quantity of good quality food is lost given the need for it that the country is going through and also with the efforts we made to be able to harvest the crop.”
Two days after the first publication on her social network, Bombino said that she had called Acopio again, this time the provincial company, and only received the answer that “tomatoes are a national matte” The producer responded, “please respect the contract and meet it.”
The deficiencies in the collection and marketing of farm products are not new, but the Government maintains its position of continuing to centralize the work and production of the farmers. A recent meeting of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) of Sancti Spíritus province once again highlighted these problems.
“Today we have products in the fields such as tomatoes and squash that cannot be harvested because there is no fuel,” the president of the provincial ANAP, Pedro Águila, acknowledged at the meeting. He was quoted by the local newspaper Escambray. This official was blunt: “The resources have not reached the farmers.”
It is not surprising then, that in the face of this scenario that is repeated in other provinces, some 29 Sancti Spiritus cooperatives report economic losses at the end of the first quarter of the year, while more than 140 have presented “cracks” in finances and productive operations, according to the local newspaper.
After a new change in the tariffs for the commercialization of the crops announced by the Government at the end of March, Esteban Ajete Abascal, president of the [non-recognized] League of Independent Cuban Farmers, warned that the authorities “are doing the opposite of what they really should: give freedom and decentralize to satisfy the needs of the farmers.”
Meanwhile, complaints from producers are increasingly common. Last month, Héctor González, a member of the Pedro y Bienvenido Cooperative, in the Minas municipality, in Pinar del Río, lost a cabbage harvest. The state company Acopio, in charge of receiving the harvest, said it had no workforce to process it.
According to the complaint published on Facebook by the user Anadeilys González, the Cuban farmer lost 1,300 cabbages, after Acopio rejected the merchandise. As a result of the post, several people commented on similar experiences on the island with papayas, sweet potatoes and}.
“The same thing happened to my cousin with some melons in Holguín and Acopio’s response was that they did not have transportation, but the farmers are not allowed to sell them on their own. Conclusion: The harvest was spoiled,” wrote Elizabeth Batista.
Add to these problems with harvests a great shortage of inputs. Many products that farmers need to work the land will now have to be paid for in US dollars, as is the case of fertilizers.
Last November, to try to alleviate the severe food crisis in which the island is submerged, the government announced provisions that seemed to announce a slight relaxation in the countryside. Among them, that private farmers could sell part of their production on their own, as long as they first meet with the deliveries agreed with Acopio, something that was looked at skeptically by independent farmers.
“The goals that Acopio sets for us to sell to the State are high and the prices are low,” notes Rolando Villegas, a farmer from the Guane area in Pinar del Río. He added, “many times we have more losses than gains to meet those amounts. The little that remains after meeting the requirement, often goes to feed our own families.”
[Editor’s note: On paper in government offices and celebrated on the TV news, food production should be rising considerably. However, in practice, that is not at all the case and shortages not only persist but increase.]