Agricultural Cooperatives as an Example of the Internal Blockade

Empty pallets in the EJT market on 17 and K streets in El Vedado (Havana, Cuba). (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, June 7, 2022 — If 90% of Cuban food production originates from agricultural cooperatives, this figure must be reviewed as soon as possible. Cooperatives in the Cuban communist regime don’t fulfill their function of meeting the population’s food needs. In addition, at first glance they are very different from those that exist in other countries, such as Spain, where the cooperative movement reaches very prominent dimensions and relevance in terms of production and employment. Cuban agricultural cooperatives are unproductive and inefficient.

The authorities of the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAG) and the National Association of Small Farmers recognize that the model doesn’t work and that they can’t find the solutions they need in the implementation of the 17 measures approved for their strengthening and consolidation within the economic plan.

Perhaps cooperatives in Cuba don’t work because of the plan and the measures that are designed by communist bureaucrats, completely removed from reality and the needs of the cooperatives. Cuban cooperatives, led by communists and with the forced participation of private actors, have very little in common with these legal entities in other countries, where the worker takes precedence over capital, can make personal decisions and is free of interference. The origin of their failure is the economic and social model.

I insist, the supposed recognition in the National Economy Plan is useless to the agricultural cooperative sector if it then doesn’t work efficiently and can’t produce enough to feed all Cubans. If cooperatives represent 90% of food production in Cuba, and it’s not enough for everyone, something doesn’t work and has to be fixed as soon as possible. The problem of malfunctioning cooperatives can’t be fixed with either “recognitions” or with access to resources for production and investment.

According to the State newspaper Granma, the authorities have tested the implementation of solutions for the strengthening of agricultural cooperatives in 77 cooperatives (26 UBPC, 18 CPA and 33 CCS) belonging to 19 municipalities in five provinces (Holguín, Granma, Havana, Mayabeque and Artemisa). As a result, as of last April, 7,084 unresolved issues were identified in the cooperatives. These  were related to questions that, from a technically productive point of view, have little or no interest.

I will quote them, as listed in Granma. Some of them are amazing.

For example, the lack of presidents and economic managers has been detected among the “pending issues,” which, according to Granma, “translates into incomplete boards of directors, poor planning, poor financial status and lack of areas of collective use.” In other words, agricultural cooperatives don’t produce due to corporate and organizational problems. Is this really credible, is it really the cause of unproductivity?

Let’s continue with the “unfinished business” relationship. Granma cites, nothing more and nothing less, than “the need to implement a communication and education system that contributes to the promotion of the values and principles of cooperativism in Cuban society, through the national, provincial and municipal media, and education centers at all levels of education.” Well, that sounds good, but can it really be accepted that this is necessary to increase production in the furrow? Do the principles and values of cooperativism serve to produce more cassava and malanga to feed people? The truth is, I don’t know.

In addition, considered essential for the authorities, is “the completion of an awareness process with presidents, boards of directors and assemblies of cooperative members; and the consultation process on competencies.” To this end, 2,200 leaders of 550 cooperatives are being investigated as a baseline. Wouldn’t it be better if, instead of so much awareness, they were left alone to produce and dedicate themselves to harvesting crops instead of so many surveys and questions?

And to close the list of “pending issues,” the authorities highlighted the importance of the “procurement process, statistical control, the creation of a contract proforma (SIPA) for the procurement process in 2023, as well as the inclusion in the new Decree-Law of the cooperative method on what is related to the election of leaders.” Bureaucracy, hierarchy, control and communist interference in the lives of these organizations that, by their nature, should be free.

The leaders didn’t mention a single word from the regime about property rights, free choice and decision-making by the cooperatives about production and pricing or, for example, how to achieve continuous supplies of products and tools that can be bought with the national money [Cuban pesos].

Nor did they mention the need to ensure the existence of a competitive and flexible distribution market, capable of meeting the needs of urban consumption, much less talk about the necessary flexibility and autonomy of current cooperatives so that they can decide on all kinds of issues, including their structure and legal future, partnership with other entities, the entry of foreign capital or the free contracting of the market.

It’s not surprising that Cuban agricultural cooperatives don’t produce food and function so badly. They’re an obvious example of the regime’s internal blockade of everything that represents independent private economic activity.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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