Ceballos, the Declining Company That Tries To Impress the Cuban Government

After four years “without honoring its commitments,” the fruit exporter of Ciego de Ávila has little success

In 2022 Ceballos had losses of 70 million pesos and another 75 million were stolen or wasted / Invasor

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 April 2024 —   It is rare for the official press to retreat in its predictions of success for a state-owned company. But the collapse of the exports of the agro-industrial Ceballos, in Ciego de Ávila, made Invasor admit this Saturday that the entity had not been able to survive the “blow to the chin” that was given to it by the Ordering Task* in 2021.

Since then, when 426 state companies were ruined by the umpteenth recipe for economic salvation for the Island, the provincial newspaper of the Communist Party put its hands in the fire in favor of Ceballos. “But they didn’t just end that period in the red but also in 2022,” it now says, when the managers struggle – with average success – to return to the “path of efficiency.”

The “very adjusted mathematics” with which Ceballos returns to the game is a bad omen  

The “very adjusted mathematics” with which Ceballos returns to the game is a bad omen: in 2022 they reported 70 million pesos in losses, and another 75 million were stolen or wasted, information that Invasor hides after a verbal pirouette: they didn’t have the money, and “at the time, the accounting by the country’s management had the consequent impacts.”

The Government was not happy about the waste, judging by the litany of obstacles it imposed on the company in 2023. To this was added the failure to export a shipment of coal that no international buyer wanted, and that was “stalled” in Mariel while Ceballos managers saw a multitude of “competitors with less expensive products” closing deals abroad.

Havana also did not allow them to enter the group of companies that could carry out transactions enjoying an exchange rate of 120 pesos for a dollar, a decision that the managers described as “contradictory,” Ceballos being “a leader of the Avileño exporting pole.” The solution was to cut heads: from 12 floors they went to eight; they fired workers in charge of “indirect work” and “centralized resources” to tackle corruption.

From October to February there were 310 employees of Ceballos, most of them professionals or directly involved with production / Invasor

A few days ago, “after four years without honoring their commitments,” they achieved a figure of which they are proud: 1.1 million pesos, in terms of foreign sales of coal, hot pepper and mango puree. They regained, they say, the confidence of the Government, which allowed the French Development Agency to approve the delivery of 4.9 million pesos this year to buy supplies that have not yet arrived. Their star product: the pineapple, on whose success they have bet everything.

Its “young general director,” Exnier González, regrets that 60% of its workers are old and 30% are women, who “look for options other than strong field work under the sun.” Many have left for “other sectors that offer greater benefits, such as private forms of management.” From October to February, there were 310 employees of Ceballos, most of them professionals or directly involved with the production.

Invasor again resorts to euphemisms to say that, unlike what happens with the leaders, they can’t afford to pay for certain employees, who must leave: “The competition is very unequal, because while the state entity obeys control systems that do not allow it to overcome certain limits in the formation of wages, the private sector can increase payments from the inflation of the sales and marketing prices, an aspect of great weight when the real possibility of satisfying the basic needs of the worker and his family is relevant.”

González’s plan: a “dignification and rescue program” that will work by offering the worker food and future “payment systems that respond to the increase in production.” All this appears, for the time being, on paper. No decisions have been made, and the manager admits that he is “still far from compensated for his needs.”

Of those 3,170 gallons of fuel that the entity received, the figure fell drastically to about 185   

Now, the head of Ceballos demands from the Government “a little more fuel.” “Of those 3,170 gallons that the entity received in times of bonanza and that literally allowed ’bathing in oil’, the figure dropped drastically to about 185 in most days and become a real headache when it came to allocating them,” the newspaper explains.

Resentful, with a small workforce and little money – a business system that González calls, with optimism, “a new type” – Ceballos has 27,182 acres at its disposal over which it is difficult to “maintain control.” It is “a changing scenario, exposed to multiple factors, where there are no certainties of resources,” says the newspaper.

The truth is that, compared to the agro-industrial entities of neighboring provinces, Ceballos is almost a successful company. In Sancti Spíritus, for example, the official press activated the alarms this Saturday for the catastrophic collapse of potato production. In an article of consolation for the losses, Escambray revealed the magnitude of the failure: the total production amounted to 1,392,881 pounds of potato, “far below what was expected.” Conclusion: the tuber is not expected to “reach everyone in the province,” who are now accustomed – like most Cubans – to its intermittency.

*Translator’s note: The Ordering Task was a collection of measures that included eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso (CUP) as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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