Cuba’s Food Industry Fell 67 Percent in the Last Five Years

Many of the industries have been partially paralyzed for a lack of raw materiales like tomatoes.   (Photo: Ciudadano Camagüey)

Pork production fell from 149,400 tons in 2018 to 13,300 in 2023, a 91% decline and rice production declined by 90%, falling from 273,800 tons to a mere 27,900.

By 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES – The debacle that is the Cuban food industry is no secret, though that does not diminish the devastating scene of the statistics offered on Tuesday, which allow us to quantify the collapse suffered in just five years. Between 2018 and 2023, the production of 23 foods, selected by the National Office of Statistics and Information as a reference for measuring the state of the manufacturing sector, declined by 66.7%.

Spanish news agency, EFE, echoed the report as soon as it was released. From it, they highlighted with stupor, that bread production had declined from 493,700 in 2013 to 326,300 in 2023, by 34% as noted in the headline. It is not, however, the most impactful data. Despite the alarming numbers–aggravated by the fact that this is a basic necessity–a detailed review of the decline in each of the food products analyzed, the truth is that bread is among the least depleted products. Only preserved meats (33%) and lobster tail (20%) declined less.

Among the worst declines were pork, which declined from 149,400 to 13,300 tons–a 91% decline, and rice which fell by 90% from 272,800 ons to only 27,900; both are products of great importance in Cuban diets. The last five year period was also nefarious for coffee and milk, elemental in national culture, which registered declines of 51% in the case of the first, and 90% for evaporated milk, while whole pasteurized frozen milk declined by 49.6%.

In the middle tier, again taking into consideration their importance in the cuisine and catastrophic production, are pastas, with a 91% decline since 2018; vegetable oils, 81%; yogurt with 68.8% decline and wheat flour, 57%. Beef production fell by 58%, cheeses 52%, canned tomatoes 76% and unsalted butter 76%. In this case, the disaster of salted butter is notable; production fell from a high of 100 tons to absolute zero, the worst percentage among the 23 products selected.

Two special mentions are lobster and shrimp, products protected for what they mean for the country’s economy through exports and the hemorrhage of which could not be contained. The first fell from 7,200 tons in 2018 to 1,200 last year, which represents an 82% decline. For lobster, although tails are among those that barely contained the catastrophe, whole, pre-cooked, frozen lobster fell from 645,000 tons to 325,100 — a 49.6% decline.

Fruit preserves, excluding baby food, also collapsed by half in these five years, as did other more superfluous foods such as ice cream (a 55% decline), fancy crackers (74.7%) and saltines, which experienced a sharp 85% decline from 18,500 tons to 2,700.

Rounding out the list was animal feed, which fell by 70% from 1,356,200 tons to only 406,400, a data point which helps explain the catastrophic situation of animal source foods. Something similar is happening with chemicals used in agriculture, which appear in another one of the sections of the report that presents very negative data. Of the 43,000 tons of complete fertilizer produced in 2018 only 1,500 were produced in 2023. The same occurs for ammonium nitrate, which is used in the production of leafy green vegetables, the production of which declined from 28,000 tons to 1,700.

The document includes several categories–though of lesser importance in the daily life of Cubans — including all types of beverages (beer and soda production also fell by half), tobacco, clothing and shoes, construction materials, machinery and even televisions. Of the entire four-page list, production improved for only three products in this five-year period: household detergent, paint and gas stoves.

Also notable is the absolute absence from the document of information on petroleum products in 2023. The report only accounts for data through 2022, for unknown reasons, but which might relate to the opacity the government maintains on this product due to the U.S. sanctions, which aim to prevent its delivery. Most of the refined products fell by at least half between 2018 and 2022.

The report also includes data on the labor force, which apparently grew in the manufacturing industry during this period. Salaries also experienced a significant increase, especially in 2021 with the Reordering Task, although the estimate should be analyzed taking into consideration the high inflation rate over the last five years–in the three-digit range if the informal market is considered–as well as the devaluation of the currency.

Another of the conclusions extracted from the document is the decline in spending on electricity among the manufacturing industry, which contributes to lower production. If in 2018 it consumed 1,432 giga watts (GW) per hour, or 6.9% of total electricity consumption, in 2023 it declined to 1,068 GH or 5.7% of the current 18,781.4.

The scene presented by the document — despite being incomplete and taking into consideration its representative sample of production — is one of an industry that has practically been annulled, even taking into account that it is one a sector in which the government has invested more money last year, with 16.854 billion pesos, or 17.5% of the total and second only to tourism, with 33.5% if both its component areas are added.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez for Translating Cuba

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

7 thoughts on “Cuba’s Food Industry Fell 67 Percent in the Last Five Years

  • Part of the answer to the question “why?” Is in the article … it’s fuel imports (or the lack of). Cuba imports its energy. Electricity is needed for agriculture and manufacturing. Electricity is generated by burning petroleum. Fertilizer is made from petroleum. Other feedstock like plastics and industrial chemicals are made from or with petroleum. Energy is expensive to import and given high global borrowing costs and that Cuba has almost nothing to export — there isn’t enough hard currency to pay for energy imports. Russia used to give Cuba a good deal. but since the Cuban government started telling its young people to stay out of Russia because they are sending Cubans to the front lines in the Ukraine war to get killed … Russia isn’t as generous. Venezuela used to give Cuba a good deal on energy, too. But it is in domestic turmoil, too. This is round 2 of the special times. Cuba needs outside help and unless another Venezuela or Russia can step in, this might be a perfect time for a friendly Spain, Canada or other social-democratic nation to make a difference.

  • You say Nothing about WHY this is happening!!!
    Those many numbers are useless without explaining Why. They may interest the CIA but not us regular people. 5 or 6 would have been plenty. Poor article. Is it because the Corrupt US govmt is starving people AND CHILDREN in Cuba?

  • Terrible times but makes me glad I brought pasta, tuna and evaporated milk our last holiday there this winter. In addition to the usual toothpaste and razor blades that we bring.

  • Daniel Petrovic obviously did not read the article, or if he did, failed to observe that it was food production within Cuba that has fallen catastrophically. The US has willingly supplied Cuba with food that incompetence has failed to produce within Cuba. It is communist policy which has failed abysmally.

  • Incompetence is synonymous with the Stalinist form of Communism so beloved by Raul and Fidel Castro. Agriculturalists from around the world, have shuddered having observed Cuba’s pitiful ‘system’ and consequentially ever diminishing levels of production. The figures provided by Cuba itself, are the reality! It is incredible that a country with a century long proven record of food production, has become ever more dependent upon the abilities of others living elsewhere, to provide sustenance for its people. Cuba’s allies have endeavored to advise and assist. Vietnam for example provided teams to instruct and educate Cubans in the production of rice, but it is now some four years since they withdrew in frustration, as it had proven impossible to introduce change. The Castro inspired regime, led by the indoctrinated puppet Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, lacks both intelligence and initiative, aware only of the promoted myth that “Socialismo” will cure all given time. Like those ostriches so beloved by the fat General Frias, they bury their heads in the sand, choking Cuba’s economy to death. It is now irreparable without political change and the introduction of capitalism to replace directives and price controls. The only fact is failure.

  • In 2012 people from Canada and Holland Spain and Mexico told the Cuban gov the farm sector was in trouble they suggested taking 20 million acres and putting then in 10 000 acres co ops with the ability to sell into 3 markets price protected for 30% of production 50% in open market in cuba and 20% export plus work with the co ops in Holland to set up imput support system and light manufacturing to keep extra help around for the busy days. The problem was Holland and Spain were demanding a improvement in human rights and a economic model so they could their money back plus a return baes on the export portion. The Cuban gov seemed to be more concerned about government control than food production. This did not need to happen and it will cause all people who have skills that can to leave. I think is too late now to turn the Cuban economy around short of a very major change.

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