Cuba Registers the Worst Potato Harvest in Half a Century, With the Exception of 2014

The Ministry of Agriculture affirms that it cultivated 6,000 hectares this year and recognizes as a failure “the lack of inputs during the cultivation cycle.” (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 June 2022 — While pineapples abound in Cuban fields, potato production has fallen to historic lows, as was glimpsed in recent publications in the official press. According to data from the preliminary report of the 2021-2022 campaign of the Ministry of Agriculture, the potato harvest totaled 93,650 tons, the worst in the last 30 years, with the exception of 2014.

The original plan for the 2022 campaign was to collect 120,914 tons to try to meet the demand in Cuba. However, in March the same ministry predicted that tuber production would not reach that forecast.

Although there is still no harvest in Ciego de Ávila, the preliminary report indicates that the previous campaign did not reach 97,354 tons, and the demand had to be covered by importing to make up for the shortfall. The figures are not expected to change, since the Ciego de Ávila press announced last week that it had its worst harvest in the last 20 years, due to the rains.

The Ministry of Agriculture affirms that it cultivated 6,000 hectares this year and recognizes as a failure, “the lack of inputs during the cultivation cycle.” It adds that due to the storms that began on April 6, there was a delay in the harvest and “high levels of loss due to rot, mainly in the provinces of Ciego de Ávila and Matanzas.”

By province, comparing the plans that the Ministry of Agriculture had for each of them, Matanzas registered the worst result: of 29,305 planned tons, it actually collected 21,657. Villa Clara follows, where 8,220 tons were expected and 5,379 were harvested. However, Cienfuegos obtained more than expected, 6,245 tons harvested, versus a plan of 5,692.

“It is worth noting that Cuba must increase the planting of nationally multiplied potato seed, to reduce the cost of importing seed from abroad” to cover the demand for fresh and industrial consumption of potatoes, the document states.

Last February, the shortage caused the price of potatoes to double and the long lines to buy them were even longer. One pound of the tuber went from three to five pesos, and up to six pesos in the case of refrigerated potatoes.

In 2014, with just 53,308 tons of potatoes, half the harvest of the previous year (130,933), according to data from the National Office of Statistics and Information (Onei), one of the worst results in the historical series since 1946 was recorded. Eight years ago, the long lines to buy one of the essential foods in the Cuban diet were beginning to be seen.

In 1996, upon reaching a record production of 364,958 tons, Cuba became an exporter of the tuber, which had been rationed for years, and sales on the island were liberalized as of 2010.

The good news ended in 2014 with the collapse of production and, despite the recovery registered in 2015, with 123,938 tons, the Government had to import potatoes to cover demand, which led to rationing again in 2017. Between 2010 and 2018, both the planted area and production were reduced by approximately 30%. In 2019, potato consumption in Cuba was 151,668 tons, of which 35,272 were imported from the Netherlands and Canada.

Despite the catastrophe, the official press celebrates that 77% of the planned harvest has been achieved and hides the fact that there will not be enough potatoes for all Cuban tables this year.


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