China Will Send 1 Percent of Cuba’s Monthly Rice Need for April

The Chinese delegation says that the donation is part of an assistance program for the Cuban people / Cubadebate

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 April 2024 — A donation of 68 tons of rice from China landed this Wednesday at the José Martí International Airport in Havana. The aid is part of a program to send a total of 408 tons of the product this April to the Island – 1% of the 36,000 tons consumed per month – distributed over six flights, and another 20,000 tons throughout the year by sea.

The Cuban authorities, who met with several representatives of China to receive the shipment, said that the rice will be delivered “immediately” to the population. This, along with the arrival by air of the first tons of the grain – and not by sea, as usual – shows that the “aid program” is an urgent measure to alleviate the Island’s food crisis, something in which Beijing seems to be willing to collaborate.

The official press also reported that China will send donations of powdered milk and flour – two of the products whose disappearance from the Cuban markets has forced the authorities to offer statements on several occasions – although the quantities were not revealed.

The urgency of the aid, however, was disguised by Deputy Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca and the Chinese ambassador to the Island

The urgency of the aid, however, was disguised by Deputy Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca and the Chinese ambassador to the Island, Ma Hui, who, far from alluding to the critical economic situation of the country, said that it was a “sincere display” of Beijing’s appreciation for Havana, which has become a “plan of assistance to the Cuban people.”

The Chinese delegation, however, made it clear that it intends to protect its interests in Cuba, something to which the regime will have to respond if it intends to continue receiving the aid. The Chinese explained that “they will carry out a working visit in order to build key areas and sectors for cooperation between the two countries.”

Luo Zhaohui, president of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, who signed the certificate of delivery of “additional merchandise” with the Food Marketing Company of Cuba, stressed that “both nations are working side by side in the global socialist cause.”

The supply of food for Cubans seems to depend more and more on the generosity of other countries, and the donations that continue to arrive offer a brief relief to the depressed state budget, which the Government itself has pointed out as insufficient to acquire, in the informal market, what is necessary for national consumption. However, compared to the 600,000 tons needed annually according to the regime, China’s delivery is barely a symbolic gesture.

An article published this Wednesday in the newspaper Victoria, accounts for the shortage of products destined for the basic family basket in Guantánamo. In the case of rice, that corresponding to the month of March has not yet been delivered to 324 bodegas (ration stores) in the territory. The same goes for sugar, absent from 416 other establishments.

Other bodegas in the province have not yet received the February cooking oil   

Other bodegas in the province have not yet received the February cooking oil. The available milk is only enough for the first 10 days of April, and the eggs will only be delivered to pregnant women, the newspaper summarizes.

The fields, with squalid productions and fewer and fewer farmers willing to collect the few pesos offered by the State, are also not a long-term solution. Far from encouraging production, the Government has missed opportunities to improve agricultural performance and, instead, puts pressure on the farmers, who lack the necessary inputs to meet the demands.

This is the case of the rice plantations of La Sierpe, in Sancti Spíritus, where four years ago the Vietnamese technicians who had been promoting the planting of rice for two decades finally got tired of the non-compliance and returned to their country. Since then, rice production has plummeted by 62%, and the State pressures the farmers to return to producing as before, in addition to forcing them to deliver all the rice they harvest — except for a small amount for their ownconsumption — to Acopio, the State company that procures and distributes food.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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