Cuban President Diaz-Canel Tells the Farmers To Be ‘Nice’ and Produce More Milk

The Camilo Cienfuegos dairy, in Consolación del Sur (Pinar del Río), closed 2023 with a debt of 50 million pesos. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 16 February 2024 — Drop the “inertia” and “be nice” were the instructions given this Thursday by Miguel Díaz-Canel on his tour of the municipality of Consolación del Sur, in Pinar del Río, as part of his official tour of the regions of the Island that “do not work well.” Between scolding for the lack of commitment and the inefficiency of industries that are not looking for “alternative” means to replace imports, the president touched on a sensitive issue in the country’s critical panorama: the shortage of milk.

During his visit to the Camilo Cienfuegos Genetic Livestock Company, the managers explained to Díaz-Canel, between justifications and mitigating factors, that at the end of 2023 the industry had a debt of 50 million pesos for failures in the delivery of milk. This January, following the trend, the dairy met 87% of the plan.

The president’s response was emphatic: the country finds it “impossible” to acquire the nutrients that the animals need

According to the managers, the poor feeding of livestock is one of the fundamental reasons why the more than 90 cows of the company barely produce 0.8 gallons of milk a day when it should be 1.6 gallons. The president’s response was categorical: the country finds it “impossible” to acquire the nutrients that the animals need, so the food has to be obtained domestically. To begin with, he said, the company should seed its inactive lands with protein plants, an alternative that so far is “insufficient.”

“We want to move the country forward, and in that purpose doing everything we can for ourselves is vital,” Díaz-Canel said to the farmers, to whom it was clear that, contrary to what the president said, they must find “alternatives” on their own.

The terrible situation of milk delivery also forced the Minister of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, to appear on Cuban Television on Thursday. At first, she alluded to the purchase of powdered milk abroad, which has presented “difficulties” in recent months.

As she explained, of the 2,200 tons that the Island needs, much of it is acquired in “distant markets, which makes the price more expensive and the arrival more delayed.” The current distribution of this product to children between birth and seven years old is made from the country’s reserves, “the valuable contribution of the World Food Program with donations and from economic actors (private companies) with contractual loans.”

As for liquid milk, Díaz clarified that due to the drought that affects Cuban livestock, deliveries have been delayed, so the ministry tries to “commit the producers more” and “avoid detours (…) to other destinations that are not those of the regulated family basket and social consumption.” The financial constraints of the State and the U.S.embargo were other trite reasons that the minister used to explain the milk crisis.

“Not all the inventories are in the provinces; therefore, transfers must be made in the midst of limitations with fuel and logistics, but from today, a distribution system begins that will allow children from zero to six months to be covered for 10 days, from February 25 to March 5,” said the official.

Also, milk will also be delivered for 10 days, from February 15 to 25, to children from six months to two years old, who have not received it since the 5th. Those from two to seven years old, however, will only receive it for five days. Children with chronic diseases will be given half of the quota they currently receive, while medical and pregnant diets “are still pending.”

In recent months, the official press, ahead of the Ministry of Internal Trade, has reported on the milk situation in each province

In recent months the official press, ahead of the Ministry of Internal Trade, has reported on the milk situation in each province, especially in the largest producers – Camagüey, Sancti Spíritus and Villa Clara. This Thursday, Invasor, the newspaper of Ciego de Ávila, did its part: “Delays in the arrival in Cuba of powdered milk contracted to maintain the continuity of the productive flow in the months of February and March require the adoption of temporary measures to rationally take advantage of the reserves and protect the most vulnerable sectors.”

In addition to the well-known economic crisis, those responsible for the shortage are, the newspaper points out, the farmers, who breach the contracts and do not deliver the milk on time or in the agreed quantities. As a result, Invasor insists, children from “three to six years, 11 months and 29 days, will receive 17 ounces of milk and will also be assigned an amount of instant vitamin soda, currently in production, to compensate for the equivalent of the milk they will stop receiving in the month.”

Weeks earlier, in January, the Camagüeyan press also announced the collapse of milk production in the largest producing province. Of the 18 million gallons of milk planned in Camagüey for 2023, only 11 million were produced. The situation is similar in Sancti Spíritus, where of the 11 million gallons committed to the State for last year, only 8 million were delivered, according to Escambray. The culprits, once again, were the farmers.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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