HAVANA TIMES – Beekeeper Yoandy Verea’s worst nightmare has come true. After months of intense work, the lack of fuel caused the loss of tons of honey in his fields in the municipality of Perico in Matanzas, according to his posts on the social network Facebook.
“I am a beekeeper contracted by apiculture, represented by the Ramon Rodriguez Milian Credit and Services Cooperative,” he explains in a short text accompanied by a photo of himself. “Currently we have been without fuel for several months and the hives in the field are full of honey,” he says.
“What agricultural institution in this country is interested in losing such production?” asks Verea. “Several tons of honey that our country so badly needs has already been lost,” and he adds that it is bureaucracy that “has us blocked.”
Verea published the same complaint three times and received many words of support, including several commentators who urged him not to wait for state transportation and to market the honey on his own, but that option is extremely complicated.
Any private beekeeper who has more than 25 hives is not only obliged to join a cooperative, but must deliver most of their honey to the State and keep only that destined for their own domestic consumption. The Provincial Beekeeping Company collects the honey and sends it to CubaExport, which is in charge of exporting it as a monopoly.
With about 3,000 beekeepers throughout the country and some 180,000 hives in operation, 90% of the honey produced in Cuban fields is exported to Europe, mainly to Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and Switzerland, while the rest goes to the national market and the tourism sector.
In the case of Verea, the lack of fuel for the vehicles that carry the honey from the fields is due to the serious economic problems of the Cooperative. With the start of the ’Ordering Task’ — a national economic restructuring — the entity “lost a good part of the state budget it received,” an employee who preferred anonymity explained to 14ymedio.
“The Cooperative is destroyed, many office workers left for their homes because they have not been paid for more than three months,” explains the worker. “There is no money to pay salaries and they also cut most of the fuel allowance we had, so there is no way to move anything.”
“If Yoandy dares to sell that honey on his own, the least that will happen to him is that they will give him a very high fine, but things can get worse. The only thing he can do is wait and report all the instances of what is happening, but that is happening here in Perico to all producers of honey, food and even milk,” he details.
In the informal Cuban market, a 750 milliliter bottle of honey now costs between 80 and 100 pesos, while in state stores a 250 ml container can cost more than 90, but the product is scarce and is currently only available in stores sell in freely convertible currency at a cost of more than three dollars.
In recent months, there has also been an increase in complaints from producers who see their crops being lost in the fields due to lack of transport or the mismanagement of the state-owned company Acopio, an intermediary on many occasions between the farmers and the points of sale.