14ymedio, Havana, 25 June 2018 — Another 100 tons of mango have been spoiled, this time in the municipality of Bahia Honda, Artemisa, due to lack of transportation to haul the product from the fields. Los Mingolitos Farm enjoyed the splendor of a bountiful harvest until the fruit “began to rot” because the authorities responsible for collecting it didn’t come, according to the local newspaper El Artemisa.
The journalist Joel Mayor Lorán describes the scene of some 600 boxes loaded with mangoes in mid-June, waiting for the vehicles to come to transport them to the distribution centers. With the passing of days, the fruits were rotting without any attempt to sell them to the highest bidders in the nearest markets.
The reporter talked about the campaign promoted by Raúl Castro to encourage the planting of fruits in Cuba, “a really essential dream, because a tropical country can’t abandon the flavor and color of the fruit trees of yesteryear,” he detailed.
At the end of last year, a project was announced with the cooperation of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Canadian Embassy in Cuba to achieve increases of between 10% and 30% in the production of guava, mango and papaya. The initiative benefits 80 companies in five municipalities in the provinces of Artemisa and Santiago de Cuba.
In the midst of that push “each municipality would have to have at least one farm dedicated to that objective,” Liván González, a local farmer told El Artemiseño. “We cultivated cane; nevertheless, they selected us and told us which varieties [of mangoes]: Tommy Atkins, Super Haden and the so-called Pumpkin and Peace.”
The farmer says that last year the Batabanó state canning industry made a contract with the producers in the area to buy the whole harvest, but “they did not use a tenth of it” and in the fields “some 900 boxes of mangoes” were lost.
This year, farmers once again invested in the purchase of “some 5,000 plants (at 20 Cuban pesos each),” explains González. In addition there was the work to till the land and pay the farmworkers.
Acopio, the state intermediary in charge of managing the transport for most products from the farms to industries and markets, is the target of Gonzalez’s criticisms. “When Acopio tells you to harvest them because they are coming to collect them, then if they don’t come, they rot.”
Recently, the official press revealed that some 1,445 tons of mango and guava pulp produced between 2015 and 2016 in the state-owned La Conchita factory were sold in neighboring Pinar del Río. The deterioration of the product, due to poor storage, resulted in loses of more than 2.2 million pesos, according to the newspaper Granma .
The newspaper added that the amount of rotted fruit pulp was “enough to fill a swimming pool or to give 1.2 liters to each inhabitant of Pinar del Río.” After the incident, the factory management had to sell 1,475 tons of pulp from the 2017 harvest to other entities to reduce the quantities stored in their warehouses.
In mid-2017, more than 2,600 tons of mango were lost in the Guantánamo fields due to lack of boxes and breakdowns in the processing plants. The amount represented more than a third of the 6,794 tons of mango that the State had contracted from producers in the area.
In contrast to these losses, families with young children from Pinar del Río and Artemisa have experienced months of high prices for babyfood, a much-requested product. Distributed through the rationed market under the brand Osito with a price of 0.25 CUP for a 200 ml container, the product “is missing,” say the locals.
Through the rationing system, three monthly containers of fruit compote for infants between zero and three years are distributed in rural municipalities, while in Havana it can be as many as 12. The official argument justifying this difference is that residents in the rural provinces can acquire the fruits directly from the producers.
Many parents of children affected by the shortage have opted to prepare the babyfood themselves, as confirmed to this newspaper by residents in the Artemiseño municipalities of Candelaria, Caimito and Guanajay. However, the heavy rains of recent weeks have complicated the supplying of fruits to the markets of the area, as well limited access to the fields.
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