HAVANA TIMES – The long lines to buy potatoes will continue to be the scene in Cuban neighborhoods, after the Ministry of Agriculture recognized this Thursday that the national production of the tuber will not cover the internal demand in 2022 and, in the best of cases, it will be at last year’s levels.
Potato consumption in Cuba in 2019 was 151,668 tons, of which 35,272 were imported from the Netherlands and Canada; 2019 is the last year for which international statistics are available since there are no national data.
This bad news comes while deliveries are being made, this week, allowing 4 pounds per person at 5 pesos a pound in various neighborhoods of Havana.
As explained by specialist Enel Espinosa to the Cuban News Agency (ACN), the estimated harvest for this year is 116,396 tons, which falls “far short from national demand.”
Of the area dedicated to this crop, 56% was planted “outside the ideal calendar,” mainly due to lack of inputs,” which will make it difficult to meet the objectives.
According to data from the National Statistics and Information Office (Onei), this objective is similar to the harvest obtained in 2020 (115,385 tons), the last year for which there is a record, and which was the worst year since 2017. If the official projection is achieved, it would be the fourth worst result of the potato harvest since 2000.
Espinosa also acknowledges that the tuber harvest will be far from the maximum recorded by Cuban agriculture at the end of the last century and in the first decade of the current one, when it exceeded 300,000 tons, more than double the current forecast.
In 1996, Cuba was even a net exporter of potatoes, reaching a production record of 348,000 tons. In 2010 the sale was released from the rationing system, but in 2015 the harvest collapsed (123,000 tons) and the Government had to import to cover the demand, which led to rationing potatoes as of 2017.
The information is becoming known at an adverse moment for the Cuban countryside, after negative data on its main crops, such as sugar, tobacco and coffee, which became known in recent months.
The country, which imports between 60% and 70% of the food it needs, is also going through a serious economic crisis, due to the pandemic, US economic sanctions and errors in national macroeconomic management.
The crisis is marked by the scarcity of basic goods, the partial dollarization of the economy and a sharp rise in prices.
Since the pandemic began, the situation has worsened even more and the lines to buy potatoes are several hours long, generating riots and disputes among people to get the pounds of potatoes that the Cuban State allows them to acquire, according to rationing, and only once since the year began.
The lines that must form to buy the tuber cover entire blocks and this year, the Cuban State has only announced the sale of the product one time.
In February, the Government doubled the price of potatoes due to the rise in the price of agricultural products and the increase in labor costs per employee. One pound of the tuber went from three to five pesos, and six in the case of refrigerated potatoes.
A resolution published on those dates in the Official Gazette established the new price for the collection and retail sale of potatoes harvested with national seed at 9,196.2 centavos per ton, equivalent to 423 pesos per quintal (100 pounds). The potato harvested with imported seed stands at 7,152.46 pesos per ton, or 329 pesos per quintal (100 pounds).