14ymedio, Havana, 14 September 2020 — Yokes for oxen, horseshoes and wire for perimeter fences are some of the items for sale in the recently issued foreign currency sales catalog focused on the Cuban agricultural sector. The dollar has arrived in the fields but still in a limited way.
The farmers can make purchases in foreign currency for some of the inputs and equipment they need to work the land, according to the new commercial modality created by the Logistics Business Group (Gelma) of the Ministry of Agriculture (Minag).
Gelma justified the decision through its social networks saying that, in the midst of the “shortages in the marketing networks, the sector requires a system that provides producers with access to inputs, equipment, parts, pieces and accessories of a specialized nature, and other assortments that allow the increase of agricultural production.”
At the moment this option is offered in the provinces of Havana, Villa Clara and Santiago de Cuba, but there is hope to extend it to the entire country. Gelma also clarified that the new stores do not guarantee “the availability of resources in the network”, but they are “an alternative within the established marketing system.”
“Given the current economic situation in which the country finds itself and the need to collect hard currency,” the agricultural sector is added to the sales in freely convertible currency (MLC), the state entity stated. With this, the sector could achieve “an increase in food production, guaranteeing the wholesale marketing of supplies and equipment.”
The announcement has provoked a wave of criticism in various sectors and on social networks, almost the only methods Cubans have to say what they cannot in other social spaces. The questions about the imminent dollarization of the country reflect a deep concern within the population.
“How far will the dollarization of the Cuban economy go, if the agreed and approved objective is monetary unification. Far from integrating productive systems and actors, segmentation is deepening. A contradictory and confusing economic and political discourse,” commented a user who signs himself as Carlos Pérez Soto on the Twitter account of the Ministry of Agriculture Business Group.
The new commercial centers for sales in MLC will have Point of Sale Terminals. Gelma also created an online store that will be dedicated to marketing, but 14ymedio was able to verify that the prices of supplies and equipment do not appear nor does it offer all the minimum computer security, as the page lacks a security certificate (SSL).
The merchandise is also very limited. Machetes, horseshoes, ox yokes and fertilizer dominate the catalog where the great demands of the Cuban agricultural sector are conspicuous by their absence: tractors and other types of heavy agricultural machinery. Instead, Gelma’s bet is on agriculture more focused on animal traction.
“You think that just by selling machetes you will collect something,” criticized a user when reviewing the few products that are exhibited in Gelma’s digital store.
The renowned economist Pedro Monreal also reflected on Gelma’s announcement and said that the largest volume of Cuban agriculture is meats and vegetables destined almost entirely for the domestic market and for sale in Cuban pesos. “The producer receives CUP. If he cannot legally buy using MLC, how can he buy from Gelma?”
A farmer, who identifies himself as ’Cubalibre’ on social media, expresses the same concern: “I buy in MLC and I sell in CUP. Who is going to sell me the MLC? How much do I have to sell in CUP if I have to buy in MLC? Like always, everything is a disaster.”
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