Coffee: Relations with the US have revealed to the Cuban people the roots of the drop in productivity / Dimas Castellano

Dimas Castellanos, 18 July 2016 — The statement issued in May of 2016 by the National Bureau of Cuba’s National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) in response to the US Treasury Department’s announcement that it would allow independent producers to export coffee Cuba to the United States should have come as no surprise. Said statement is a faithful reflection of the entity’s nature, as the ANAP does not represent the interests of producers, but rather those of the State, the Government and the Communist Party (PCC). An examination of its founding premises bases suffices to substantiate this.

The forming of associations of farmers and employers, a phenomenon that emerged in the 19th century, was fomented by the freedoms provided for in the Constitution of 1901, and flourished as part of a struggle to defend the interests of their members against eviction and for ownership, better markets, fair prices, low-interest loans and reduced rents, among others. Decree 16 of January 3, 1934, issued by the government of Ramón Grau San Martin, institutionalized the mandatory accreditation of association of producers. In 1937 the First National Farmers Congress was held, and in 1941 the National Farmers Association was founded. These developments would establish such associations as a key institution in Cuban society.

As a result of the shift towards totalitarianism stemming from the revolutionary process in 1959, private property and the diversity of farmer and employer associations were eliminated. In October of 1960, wielding the argument that all sugar mills had been nationalized and, hence, there no longer were any hacendados (landowners), the most powerful of these organizations, the Asociación de Hacendados de Cuba, was disbanded.  Next to be eliminated was the Asociación de Colonos de Cuba, and in December of 1960 the leader of the Revolution advanced the following idea: “It is necessary for small farmers, instead of being sugar cane growers, or tobacco growers, etc., to be simply farmers, and for us to organize a National Association of Small Farmers.” This was an idea that, as usual, became law.

On January 21 of 1961 all the employer organizations and existing farmer associations were supplanted by the Asociación Nacional de Colonos, which was renamed the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) in May of that year. Appointed to head it up was José Ramírez Cruz, from the insurrectional struggle and the ranks of the Popular Socialist Party (PSP).

The objectives of the ANAP were enshrined in its charter, its seventh statute stating: “To guide and lead the cooperatives and small farmers so as to comply with the agrarian policy of the Revolution, as well as the agreements and guidelines laid down by the Party and the organization itself at its respective congresses and plenary sessions.”

The eleventh article reads: “To achieve, through the organization’s political and ideological work, successful compliance with production plans and sales to the State, and to contribute effectively towards the implementation of the rules and procedures laid down by the economy’s governing bodies.”

Article fourteen, meanwhile, states: “To carry out profound political work with farmers so that they do not engage in the sale of agricultural products illegally; and to exercise, in coordination with the people’s councils and the MINAG, the control necessary to prevent landowners not associated with the ANAP from committing violations affecting farmers’ honor and dignity.”

These three items can be summarized as follows: 1) subordination to the Government’s objectives, 2) the supplanting of the work of private producers and their private associations 3) the use of the association to monitor, control and prevent the free sale of their products.

This explains why all the ANAP’s plenary meetings and sessions, ever since its founding, have been presided over by officials of the PCC’s Political Bureau, and why in January of 2013, violating the fundamental principles of these cooperative efforts, they replaced or released from duty 632 presidents of agricultural cooperatives.

Therefore, in response to the US Treasury Department’s decision to add Cuban coffee to its list of imports permitted by independent producers (whose impact was bolstered by Nespresso’s announcement that it would resume the sale of Cuban coffee in the US), the ANAP, unsurprisingly, declared its opposition.

It would have been another story if this body actually represented the interests of its members, who would be the main beneficiaries of the United States’ decision. Instead of scoffing at the decision, stating that “no one can conceive of a small farmer exporting directly to the US,” it should have demanded changes to the State monopoly so that it would be “conceivable” and a viable opportunity from which its “members” could benefit.

The ANAP’s subordination to the State, Government and PCC explains not only Cuban producers’ current defenselessness, but also their apathy, as reflected in the decline in Cuba’s coffee production; once the world’s coffee export leader, production has plummeted from 60,000 to just 6,000 tons annually. And it also explains the purchase of coffee from countries like Vietnam, when it was Cuba that taught the country how to grow it.

The results demonstrate that the ANAP has never been, nor will it ever be, able to replace or rival the National Association of Coffee Growers, or that of the landowners, or that of the ranchers, or the other associations, which all posted figures much greater than the paltry ones achieved today, by selling freely on the national or international market.

The State’s monopolistic control, its abusive supply prices, the countless restrictions to which it subjects producers, its restrictions on marketing any portions of crops outside the mandates imposed by the State, its land ownership relationships, its absence of an economic model capable of efficient production, and its fear of the development of a middle class, are among the main causes of Cuba’s coffee decline, the deterioration of agriculture, and the economy in general, and the new and inevitable crisis the country is headed for as a result of the loss of Venezuelan oil supplies.

Relations with the US have revealed to the Cuban people the true roots of the decline in production.

Translation taken from Diario de Cuba’s English site