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Díaz-Canel asks Cuban farmers to “work differently”

Havana/Almost a thousand representatives of the Cuban agricultural sector met this Thursday by videoconference with the Government’s senior staff to make a diagnosis of the sector in which, without a doubt, 100% of the population will agree: “bad.” That is the word with which they qualified the 2023 results and the immediate future is also poorly anticipated, although managers and producers agreed that “it is the intention to stop the trend of recent years towards decrease.”

Of the twelve “state functions” that correspond to the Ministry of Agriculture, seven did not meet the forecasts, rice for the passbook, twisted tobacco for export, beef for the industry, fresh milk, coffee, eggs and timber. The sector was blunt: the planned volumes were not reached, nor were the demand of the population, industry and social consumption guaranteed; and the delivery of the contracted productions to the farmers fell below expectations.

There was Miguel Díaz-Canel, who delegated all responsibility to the producers – “the feeding of the people is in your hands” – and, when it came to presenting solutions, he could only stammer. “The plans?… Well,” he said verbatim according to the official Workers–, there is a plan and it is the Law of Food Sovereignty and Food and Nutritional Security. That is, our plan must be to put agricultural production on the table of Cubans in an accessible way, at good prices and that guarantee healthy and adequate nutrition.”

In the absence of guidelines, the head of state barely occurred to him to affirm that the guajiros who do not pay the bill look at those who do comply “and learn”

In the absence of guidelines, it barely occurred to the head of state to affirm that the guajiros who do not pay the bill look at those who do comply “and learn.” Díaz-Canel insisted that there are “potentialities”, something that he has been told by the delegation of American farmers who visited the Island this week on a trip organized by the National Association of Departments of Agriculture of the United States (Nasda).

The Government once again resorted to motivational speeches to replace the proposals. “We are convinced that this is a Ministry that works hard,” said Manuel Marrero. “We have a noble peasantry, which accompanied the revolutionary struggle and continues to accompany the Revolution; they are humble, hard-working people. And in agriculture there have been transformations; but we are far from seeing the results,” he admitted. And a large part of the problem lies in the assumption that transformations do not work.

Las famous 63 measures approved to “invigorate agricultural production” will soon be three years old without any improvement in sight, as the farmers have already warned from the moment of the announcement. The international context has not helped proposals that are of little use as long as there continue to be restrictions of all kinds for producers.

“In tobacco, the plans were not honored in several production lines, although it grew in others”

The data revealed at the meeting could not be more discouraging, although few are surprised. Almost 238,000 tons of vegetables, more than 171,000 tons of vegetables and thousands of tons of fruits were no longer produced. The milk collection plan remained at no more and no less than 212 million liters, an alarming situation attributed, among other factors, to the deaths of livestock due to malnutrition and diseases, the low birth rate of cattle and, of course, to the serious increase in theft and slaughter of livestock.

The figures, one after another, break the limits of surprise. Almost a billion eggs were missing, as well as 400,000 tons of feed. As a result, there was no pork either, although it was not said by how much the forecasts were missed.

“In tobacco, the plans were not honored in several production lines, although it grew in others,” notes the Workers’ note, seeking solace in the tragedy. As for other products, 4,667 tons of coffee were not obtained; in cocoa, 870; in honey, 3,609 tons and in sawn wood, more than 50,000 cubic meters. A disastrous panorama, no matter where you look.

The information is optimistic, at least, with urban, suburban and family agriculture, “which honored its main plans, although also with insufficiencies and limitations.” However, when the problem is national, small gardens are far from being the solution to feed more than just those who plant them.

At the meeting, the poor results were attributed to the lack of inputs, fertilizers and pesticides or “limitations with energy carriers for planting and irrigation,” on the one hand. On the other hand, lack of control, theft and corruption: nothing new compared to recent years, only worse and without a package of urgent measures or a strong investment destined for the countryside, whose situation has already become a national emergency.

Plans are planned for 2024 that already seem complicated. Ydael Pérez Brito, Minister of Agriculture, said that it is planned to provide 100,000 tons of rice, 20,000 of which will be for seeds. The same will be done with coffee, which must deliver 9,000 tons and, at the same time, increase planting. Strong growth is expected in tobacco, which remains to be seen if it is fulfilled, with 20,000 tons of agricultural tobacco and 80 million units of twisted tobacco.

Chickens must lay 1 billion eggs, the same ones that were missing this year, but it is not explained how

The chickens must lay 1,000 million eggs, the same ones that were missing this year, but it is not explained how, since the forecast of “growing in the number of chickens” when it has been explained why they are not born, does not seem to have any guarantee. The same case as in pigs and cattle: both must be increased, how? Apparently the will will have to be enough.

The minister stated that exports should bill 433 million dollars (11 more than last year), mainly for tobacco, but also for charcoal, honey and coffee. None of the four have started on the right foot and the fuel shortage does not bode well. And investments are also trusted abroad, while the Government continues spending on tourism. “There are 37 projects with foreign partners identified and there are 21 established,” said Pérez Brito, but it was not great news, since the lack of completion of foreign investment projects has been the norm since the law was approved.

“The solutions are there, but for that we have to work differently,” said Díaz-Canel. What is not there, nor expected, is the food.

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