Cuba: The High Price of Feed is Ending Family Pig Farming

Alisur Feed Factory, in Santa Cruz del Sur, Camagüey. (Trabajadores)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 19 May 2021 — Between last September and the middle of this month, the Logistics Business Group of Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture (Gelma) has  more than three million dollars in merchandise in its network of agricultural supplies and equipment stores, as announced this Tuesday by executives of the state company which also identified feeds as the “most demanded” products.

“Some private producers who have a contract with the pig company are buying the feed in MLC (freely convertible currency) and then reselling it,” according to Aníbal, a man from Santiago who has raised animals all his life in the backyard of his house , speaking to 14ymedio. “It is one of the few options for which you can find food for animals on the street. A sack, which contains about three and a half cans, costs 1,500 pesos.”

When the ’Ordering Task’* began last January 1, a can of feed or ground wheat in Santiago de Cuba cost about 150 pesos and now it exceeds 400. “A week ago I paid 750 pesos for three cans of bran, each one costs 250, and it lasts a few days. Food is hard to come by, I have a freshly calved sow and very little sancocho is collected at the neighbors’ houses because even that has diminished with the crisis we are experiencing,” adds Aníbal.

The raising of domestic animals for family consumption has for years been one of the alternatives that thousands of Cubans turn to in order to put food on the table. Given the severe crisis that the country is experiencing, in recent months it has become almost impossible to carry out this activity due to the scarcity of the food necessary for raising animals, mainly, chickens, pigs, cows, ducks and rabbits.

In Cuba, feed is not sold in the network of stores, it is only sold to producers who have signed contracts with state agencies. But there is an illegal market. The sacks are diverted from state farms, factories or from what private producers receive each month, of which they decide to sell a part.

Gelma said that it currently has 17 centers that trade in foreign currency and that “it plans to continue with the inauguration of others, especially specialized in the sale of feed.” Although the sale is in MLC, only licensed self-employed persons will be able to buy in these establishments.

The shortage of animal feed and its high cost influenced, for example, the price of pork, which currently costs 150 pesos per pound. In February, the Minister of Finance and Prices, Meisi Bolaños Weiss, said that the Government decided to reduce “by about 60% the sale price of national feed” and increase the sale to producers by 1.5 times, to stimulate pork production.

Productive sectors such as poultry have been among the most affected by the economic deterioration of recent years in Cuba. The government objective of substituting imports for a national product, especially in the food sector, has not been achieved.

On the contrary: every year the amount of imported chicken grows. Experts agree that to reactivate national production, large investments will be needed, not only in breeding and fattening buildings, but also in feed factories. There is a general opinion that a private producer takes better care of the chickens, but the big problem that remains is feeding them.

Meanwhile, in livestock, the Cuban government intends to save a lot of money with a new project: Island-produced feed based on moringa. According to the calculations, the country spends 550 million dollars a year importing raw materials for animal feed and cannot continue like this if it wants to promote the expansion of the livestock supply.

At the beginning of May, it was learned that the Bayamo Agricultural Company and the Pastures and Forages Research Institute carried out a study that, supposedly, had demonstrated the “high nutritional value” of a national feed obtained from moringa. This product would have a cost of 561 pesos per ton, almost a third of that made with imported raw material, which reaches 1,500 pesos.

*Translator’s note: The ‘Ordering Task’ [Tarea ordenamient0] is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso 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 other measures related to the economy. 


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