14ymedio, Madrid, 22 December 2023 — It was expected that, among the results analyzed by Parliament, those of the agricultural sector would be the most regrettable. But expectations were, once again, exceeded, in particular when the collapse of livestock was known due to theft and slaughter, almost twice as much as last year and 360% higher than in 2021.
In 2022, the consequences of this practice already left very worrying figures. Throughout the Island, there were 82,445 cases of theft and slaughter, which meant 22 million fewer pounds of meat. Compared to the 33,690 head of cattle lost in 2021, the figure was already 2.5 times higher (145% more). But in a rapid acceleration, in 2023 the loss amounted to more than 155,000 animals, to which are added an indeterminate number of those who die and those not born due to “deterioration of the food base and the delay in the incorporation of the female into reproduction.”
The State, which owns almost 80% of the land, barely provides 22% of rice, 16% of food and 8% of fruits. Private individuals contribute, with less than 40% of the land, more than 70% of food, corn and beans, 40% of rice (more than the State and cooperatives) and 80% of the fruits
The report presented yesterday by Ramón Aguilar Betancourt, president of the Agri-Food Commission, did not skimp on harsh words and described the deterioration as “accelerated,” with a number of animals that “has been decreasing for years, and all the indicators present alarming results.” The official stressed that the animals spend too much time without enough food and water, and frequent irregularities are repeated: undeclared births and unregistered reports of sex and category, among others.
To top it all off, the other animal protein is also in sharp decline. Pig production is limited and with “very high prices,” while poultry is scarce, including eggs that don’t hatch and chicks that don’t grow. When the chicks do survive they must be killed, because of “the lack of food for them,” the report says.
With such data, it is not surprising that the state livestock group has one of the worst results, along with the Agricultural, Agroforestry, Gelma and Acopio. They lead the losses of the agri-food system, which has negative results of more than 2,385 million pesos.
In agriculture, as expected, there was no room for hope either. The president of the commission was very clear: “The necessary transformations that could have an effect on the food for our people and on the economic development of the country have not been achieved.” Of course, he exempted the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government from any responsibility by pointing out that the bad results happened “despite” his recommendations and actions. However, he did not hesitate to ask the highest officials to take on a task that is too much for the department.
The official stressed that the animals spend too much time without enough food and water, and frequent irregularities are repeated: undeclared births and unregistered reports of sex and category, among others
“An important part of the problems affecting the Cuban agricultural sector exceed the scope of the capacities and powers of the Ministry of Agriculture, requiring more comprehensive attention from the Government of the Republic,” says the report, which suggests that more time should be devoted to a sustainable development strategy rather than to such concrete measures as the search for raw materials.
The outlook is discouraging, with only two of the 14 products considered essential meeting with the projections. Corn and vegetables escape, and paradoxically, the bean improves compared to last year, despite the fact that the figures and prices show its scarcity.
The document presented to the deputies makes it clear that “it is necessary to look for financial alternatives that allow access to basic inputs for grain production technologies, where investments have been made that are currently underutilized, with deterioration due to lack of exploitation.” And, as Aguilar Betancourt acknowledged, some of the worst practical problems of the Cuban countryside date back to the 90s, he said, referring to the obsolescence of the machinery and the lack of inputs, although not to the absence of policies aimed at carrying out a new direction.
An important part of the problems affecting the Cuban agricultural sector exceed the scope of the capacities and powers of the Ministry of Agriculture
It was stated, for example, that “in recent years investments in the agricultural sector do not exceed 5%” and it is surprising that this is not pointed out as one of the causes of the gigantic crisis of the sector and a serious incongruity with the message that the priority is food security, compared to investments of more than 30% in the hotel sector.
The comments that were made regarding coffee, described as a “cultivation of great relevance for the country” for being exported and, at the same time, replacing imports for domestic consumption – which is mixed 50% with peas, in that case – make it clear that the perspective is never to assume mistakes. “Despite the investments made to recover the areas and improve the technological processes in the industry, it is not possible to achieve the projected results. During the years 2012-2022, more than 15,000 acres were planted, but technological indisciplines, the effects of climate change and the limitations of inputs have affected agricultural yields, which on average reach 0.54 tons per acre,” they point out.
Exports, despite everything, were not so bad. Forecasts were met by 75% in 2022, and in the first half of the year they reached 92%, which is not catastrophic for the percentages that the authorities usually manage. Other disastrous data correspond to the workforce. In 39 cooperatives there is no president, and in 92 an economic representative is missing. The report confirms that the costs associated with the workforce are high and, in addition, the workforce is decreasing, not to mention those who do not carry out their activities “within the framework of legality.”
Other disastrous data correspond to the workforce. In 39 cooperatives there is no president, and in 92 an economic representative is missing
The document also speaks of an oversizing of state and business structures, as well as a growing number of cooperatives with problems. However, it does not mention, as Cuban economist Pedro Monreal points out, the private sector, “the component,” he explains, “of a significant part of Cuba’s food security.”
In the professor’s opinion, “agricultural policy must put aside the cooperative direction and focus on what it should: the national private sector.” The data show that private individuals contribute, with a percentage of land use of less than 40%, more than 70% of food, corn and beans, 40% of rice (more than the State and cooperatives) and 80% of the fruits. Meanwhile, the State, which owns almost 80% of the land, barely provides 22% of rice, 16% of food and 8% of fruits.
“All that narrative of ‘liberating productive forces’ should start by officially supporting a modern private agriculture that replaces the scheme of small commercial production of ’natural people’ with a diverse institutional model,” says the economist.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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