Cuban Leaders in Artemisa Attribute the Failure of the Potato Harvest to the Energy Situation

Coveted by clients, merchants and informal sellers, the tuber has also been the motive for several crimes on the Island.

A truck loaded with potatoes supplies the agromarket on Camilo Cienfuegos Avenue, in Lawton, Havana / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 17 April 2024 — The potato harvest during this year’s campaign in the fields of Artemisa has been a failure. This is admitted by the official press, which reports that of the 5,600 tons projected for harvest in the municipalities of Güira de Melena, San Antonio de los Baños and Alquízar, only 3,600 tons were obtained.

According to the official media El Artemiseño, Miguel Sánchez García, general director of the Agricultural and Forestry Business Group of the province, said that the biggest problem of the harvest was that the 280 hectares (692 acres) planted, of which 270 (667 acres) have been collected, did not yield as expected, and barely 14.5 tons were obtained from each.

However, the manager is clear about the causes of this disaster: “We couldn’t apply the 16 irrigation sprinklers due to the continuous electrical impairments just when the crop needed it most; on top of that, the rains caused rot,” Sánchez said, blaming the country’s energy situation.

Although the potatoes harvested from state seeds complied with the plan, the imported seed did not. There were eight electrical interruptions at the peak of the growing cycle,” he lamented.

 During this season, in which Cubans chase after potatoes and pay scandalous prices for them, customers notice not only their quantity but also their quality

The authorities insisted, despite the obvious losses, that in many parts of the province the national average for the potato harvest, which didn’t reach 10 tons per hectare (2.5 acres), was exceeded and even doubled.

With the tubers collected, “the potato has been guaranteed for the standard family basket of the province, seven markets in Havana and the Frutas Selectas Company,” in addition to the fact that, “since the beginning of the harvest, eight pounds of potatoes have been distributed to each person in the province,” celebrates the local newspaper.

During this season, in which Cubans chase after potatoes and pay scandalous prices for them, customers notice not only their quantity but also their quality. In the Cuban capital, for example, many complain that the tuber requires a lot of cooking time to soften properly. As confirmed this week by 14ymedio, the price of a pound of potatoes in the markets is 180 pesos.

Sought after by customers, merchants and informal sellers, the potato has also been the motive of several crimes on the Island. The most recent example: the theft of 1,293 pounds in the Havana municipality of Plaza de la Revolución last March. Destined for the 431 residents of the area, the potatoes disappeared after multiple “violations” that left a notable shortage.

The administrator of the market where the robbery occurred was arrested and taken to the Zapata and C station, according to the official website of the municipal government, which assured that the event would be investigated. After an inspection at the premises, “an adulterated weight” was found that served to give customers a lower quota than they were entitled to.

However, the figures offered by Sánchez García were higher than those published on the Council’s page and were taken up in a report by Tribuna de La Habana. According to the preliminary count, it said, 1,609 pounds of the tuber were missing, destined for 536 consumers.

Another article published in Tribuna weeks ago warned about the theft of potatoes from state refrigerators, “where the tubers selected for seed for later harvests or reserves that allow normal distribution are concentrated.” The note regretted that, with the disappearance of the Soviet Union – which was supplying the Island “throughout the year” – potatoes have gone from piling up “rotting in sacks in front of any food stall” to being a “strategic” food.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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