14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 29 May 2022 — Is the agricultural situation in Cuba really going to be substituting “good practices” to increase the production of food, vegetables, grains and fruits? Well, it seems that this is what they did in the National Plenary of Cooperatives and Advanced Producers of the Productive Poles of various crops. Tremendous name.
According to the State newspaper Granma, which carried out the news coverage of such an important meeting, “the integral management of agroindustrial chains to generate high value-added products and services was analyzed, and the good practices of producers were socialized, with the purpose of increasing the production of food, vegetables, grains and fruits.” Deputy Minister Tapia, Minister of Agriculture Ydael Pérez, along with other ANAP (National Association of Small Farmers) authorities participated in the event.
Faced with the terrible results of the agricultural sector in 2021, which apparently are just as bad in 2022, as Minister Gil acknowledged at the last meeting of the Council of Ministers, citing the numerous “non-compliances” in product deliveries, communist leaders organize these “flower games” in which the cooperatives that make up a so-called “Political Productive Vanguard Movement” participate for the 100,000 kilograms of various crops and advanced producers.
Apparently 19 municipal plenaries were preceded by as many others in the agro-industrial “productive poles” with an agricultural vocation, the last collectivist invention of the regime, and four provincial ones. And of course, in the face of so many agricultural gatherings of the “productive avant-garde” one asks: Who is left in the furrow working daily to produce more?
The communists, in the face of the evident failure of their “63 measures” and any initiative that has its origin in the social communist model that governs Cuban agriculture in the last six decades, can think of nothing more than to “distract” producers, instead of letting them work freely, decide how much to produce, in what dimensions of plot and at what prices.
The regime’s interference in agriculture is the origin of all the evils of a sector that aspires to have the freedom to decide. Agrarian reform was a disaster; INRA’s (National Institute for Agricultural Reform) replacing the old ministry was another. A lot of time has passed since then, but the evils of Cuban agriculture remain the same: statism, bureaucracy, interference, control and repression.
It is not with “substitution of good practices” that more and better can be produced. The communist invention of the so-called “productive poles” dedicated to the production of various crops, will not work either, since it implies exercising a coercive force on producers, based on bureaucratic and political decisions, which have little or nothing to do with the socio-productive reality of Cuban agriculture.
A good example of this deficient creation of the so-called “poles” was offered by Granma stating that this formula, despite the full support of the regime, including these “substitutions of good practices,” has only produced 706,200 tons, barely 26% of the total production achieved in the year. A minutiae. And in the first quarter of this year, when non-compliance by Minister Gil was reported, the productive poles have not improved their contribution, with only 232,485 tons, which represents 25.3% of total production, one point less.
Then the National Director of Marketing of the Ministry of Agriculture spoke about marketing policy to point out what everyone knows, “that it is once again a difficult task, especially because of the scenario that Cuba is currently experiencing.” The solution is at their fingertips, and if they don’t implement it, it’s because they don’t want to: suppress ACOPIO (Cuba’s State Procurement and Distribution Agency) forever and leave absolute freedom to the marketing of producers with competitive private distributors. That’s a good practice.
In reality, and although this plenary served to vindicate, for the umpteenth time, the 63 measures of agricultural production, the truth is that no more production has been achieved, and there are the official results of ONEI (National Office of Statistics and Information) and the statements of Minister Gil, and they have not served to improve marketing either. Cuban communists still do not understand that what is not produced cannot be distributed, and that before the pitcher, you have to have the cow to produce milk. The achievements in terms of new products, new points of sale and new economic actors that offer products in other varieties have been carried away by the wind, in a 2021 lost forever, and a 2022 that is not going any better.
And in the face of the failure of the “63 measures”, the leaders insist that it’s necessary to continue “advancing in the dissemination of this policy, in which its importance and advantages, especially for the producers, are understood.” The author of this blog has consulted several Cuban agricultural producers who insist that the problem isn’t in knowing the measures, but in their futility, which simply don’t address what is really needed, so they turn their backs on them.
The meeting also discussed agricultural prices, an issue of the utmost importance, which according to the CPI prepared by ONEI on a monthly basis, are the fastest growing of the different components of the index, with their negative influence on the population. The evidence indicates that the current inflationary process that the Cuban economy is experiencing, which will get worse in the coming months, is originating from and also influencing the prices of raw materials and food.
And that either the authorities face this problem with effective and practical solutions, or the probability of a food crisis in Cuba seems very high. Wasting time relying on a possible solution to the problem on the part of state-owned companies doesn’t make sense, in view of past experience. The productive poles don’t either. The regime has no solutions within the communist social model to deal with the agricultural crisis, a situation that, similarly, led the Vietnamese to apply the Doi Moi (1986 Vietnam economic reforms). Why not in Cuba?
With this type of substitution of “good practices” and support for statism, the communist regime is on its way to a situation of serious structural crisis in the agricultural sector that no one wants, but which is on the doorstep. For a long time, the Cuban guajiro has known what the good practices are in his sector, and although he cannot claim them freely for fear of repression, it’s very clear: freedom, private property rights and a free market. The rest is wasting time.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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