Cuban State Company Acopio Owes Millions of Pesos to Farmers in the Province of Las Tunas

Las Tunas farmers have demanded that state companies pay them on time. (Periódico 26)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, November 28, 2023 — The state companies of Las Tunas are being suffocated by debts, the provincial authorities lamented on Tuesday. Among the defaults to its suppliers, the unpaid credits in the bank and the lack of budget, the worst situation is presented by Acopio, with millions in defaults, followed closely by the provincial Directorate of Education and several cooperatives.

The crisis, the official State newspaper Granma explains, has put Acopio between a rock and a hard place, largely responsible for the lack of food in the province, since it is up to them to manage both state and private food production. The warning of the suppliers, the newspaper admits, has been clear: if they do not pay their debts, they will soon run out of products.

At the moment, the situation is not very hopeful. “Today we have 67 million pesos committed for credits that we have not been able to amortize,” acknowledged Javier Velázquez, commercial director of the company. “With the new measures adopted by the country, we market only 5% of what is produced, destined, for example, for social consumption and medical diets. Due to the credits, the bank withdraws 80% of our daily income, and what we have marketed this year is negligible,” explained the manager.

In addition, the company is in the middle of negotiations with the Banco de Crédito y Comercio (Bandec), with which they maintain several active debts and many overdue, to receive more financing. “We hope that now, with a certain intention of strengthening the state part, we can also obtain more production. We have been negotiating with the bank the possibility of new financing, to be able to recover as a company,” but, says Velázquez, the prices imposed by the State also take their toll.

According to Maikel Cera, general director of Acopio in Las Tunas, the differentiated prices for the population, imposed by the municipal governments, diminish the profit margin of the company

According to Maikel Cera, general director of Acopio in Las Tunas, the differentiated prices for the population, imposed by the municipal governments, reduce the profit margin of the company, which remains at a few cents. Also, he says, they compete with “intermediaries” who sell the same products at higher prices but pay “cash on the spot,” something that the company cannot do due to lack of liquidity.

As for the Bandec branch that manages the company’s credits, with whose directors Granma also spoke, the panorama they offer about Acopio is no different. So far this year, says Leancy Richard Collazo, director of the bank, three financings were approved for the company. “They have about 66 million in credits in force, of which 23 million are due.”

“We have restructured 18 million to help them have enough solvency to request new financing and liquidity to acquire products,” he says.

Several credit and service cooperatives (CCS) in Las Tunas also revealed their concern about the debts they continue to contract with producers without a guarantee of payment. This is the case of the CCS Sabino Pupo, from the municipality of Manatí, whose associated producers have filed complaints about the delay in payments.

The transfer arrives on time, but then the cash is delayed, and we have hired workers who do not have cards”

“The transfer arrives on time, but then the cash is delayed, and we have hired workers who do not have cards,” claimed Diosmani Ramírez, one of the milk producers associated with the CCS, who explained that the payments are delivered half in cash and the other by transfer. “In addition, there are many payments that are still in cash, so there are ATMs in the municipality. We have to go to the bank, and although they help us, they can’t always give us the figure we ask for,” he added.

The same thing happens in the CSS Conrado Benítez, of the municipality of Colombia, whose directors admitted that “it is almost never possible to pay (the suppliers) within the month” stipulated in the contracts. The debtor, in this case, is precisely Acopio, who has not delivered the corresponding amount to the banana and corn farmers of the CCS.

Arelis Calvo, in charge of economics in that cooperative, admits that the annoyance among the members is widespread. “Some come to me and tell me that it is better to sell on the outside, because they have the money fast in their hands, and they also need to eat and feed their families. “Our CCS complies with what it agrees; we have been vanguards for three years. So, why aren’t we being paid?”

Mailín Utria, general director of the Cárnica Las Tunas Company, also gave a part of the situation of the entity in his charge. “We have managed to maintain some stability in terms of payments. We were managing to make them between 20 and 25 days, but sometimes that period was extended to 30 days,” he said. However, the attempt to be punctual without having the budget brought consequences.

“We have seen the need to apply for bank loans to be able to honor those payments, because the financial situation of the company is tense, due to a high number of accounts receivable because of customer defaults,” said Utria, who acknowledged that in 2023 they assumed credits worth 130 million pesos, and now they have requested 80 million more.

We have found ourselves in the need to apply for bank loans to be able to honor those payments, because the company’s financial situation is tense, due to a high number of accounts receivable 

Education, although budgeted by the State, also has a rope around its neck. “In our case, we have debts amounting to 30 million pesos from accounts payable, including those of the cooperative and farming sector. Those high balances do not respond to negligence or lack of control, but to the tight situation we have with the budget,” explained Yaimara Martínez, head of the accounting and finance department of the entity.

“Our sector needs more than one hundred million pesos today to close the year. At the beginning of this year we stopped receiving more of the 180 million in relation to our preliminary project and, on top of that, up to now they have withdrawn 23 million. In addition, we pay the debts from 2022 with the 2023 budget. The Finance directors have not been able to support our needs,” she complained.

According to the official, Education only receives money permanently to pay the workers’ salaries. The rest depends on the contributions of other companies and “economic actors” to the State budget, but this system is also in crisis, since the tax agencies are having problems with their own finances.

“We are dealing with the Finance and Prices directors to see if at least part of the budget that we used to pay the previous year’s debts is replenished,” Martínez said.

For now, the only solution that Education has found to relieve the debt pressure is to extend the terms of the contracts – which require payment in 30 days – to 60 and 90, “so that they do not become aged debts so quickly, since there is no liquidity to pay.” More than a solution, however, the measure only serves to lengthen the wait of those who demand to be paid for their work.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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