14ymedio, Havana, 23 May 2017 — Agriculture in Cuba is among the lowest performing in Latin America according to an evaluation published by the non-governmental organization Mundubat, based in the Basque Country (Spain). On the island, losses during harvest and after collection represent 30% of total production, while during the distribution stages they reach an additional 27%.
The report includes an evaluation carried out jointly between Mundubat and Veterinarians Without Borders (VSF). Both organizations are part of a cooperation agreement with Cuba, started in 2014 and funded mainly by the Spanish Agency for International Cooperation for Development.
Mundubat and VSF have been working on the island since 1993 in projects that promote food sovereignty and gender equality. The entities work in collaboration with official organizations, including the National Association of Small Farmers, the Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians, and the Cuban Association of Animal Production.
The report sees as a positive sign that “the cooperative sector already has 80% of the land and produces more than 90% of the food produced in the country,” but notes that domestic production “only covers 20% of the population’s needs.”
The biggest problems detected in food production on the island have their origin in the “weakness of the cooperative institutional framework in which agricultural production is organized,” the report said.
“Domestic food production only covers 20% of the populations’ needs”
The cooperatives lack an “internal evaluation of the efficiency and ecological sustainability of the models of production,” demonstrate a “lack of knowledge of the regulatory frameworks,” suffer deficiencies in their facilities, and have “little involvement from their members,” says Mundubat.
The island suffers from “degraded soils with low levels of organic matter, and high incidence of pests and diseases,” along with “high salinity, soil compaction and overgrazing.” Invasive weeds and contamination from manure aggravate the picture.
“The scarce investment in technology” limits “production even more.” Mundubat describes the final products offered for consumption as being of “low quality.” A situation that points to “poor processing in the early stages of harvest,” “deterioration of storage systems” and “lack of experience in adding value to primary products.”
The different productive units “do not meet the [island’s] internal demands” and the food supply is characterized by “the low and unstable availability of food throughout the year” and fluctuating prices.
The report warns that women have “a low presence” in positions and structures of management in the agricultural sector and “endure the sexual division of labor.” While “rights holders and producers are men,” women occupy “agricultural labor posts” in agribusiness processing chains and in retail distribution.
“The sector’s returns are stagnant or have decreased slightly,” warns the report, which predicts that to the extent that agriculture “does not increase its yields and exploit its productive potential, the economy will have to assume significant expenditures to supply its domestic demand,” that is, for purchasing food from abroad.