Cuba’s Bahia Honda Coffee Farmers Denounce Lack Of Equipment / 14ymedio, Jorge Luis Guillen Garcia

Café 'Cubita' gourmet variety. (Wikipedia)
Café ‘Cubita’ gourmet variety. (Wikipedia)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Jorge Luis Guillen Garcia, Bahia Honda (Artemisa), 2 November 2015 — In Bahia Honda the coffee tastes much more bitter lately. The farmers of the Castro Brothers Credits and Services Cooperative of this Artemisa town are losing 2,840 pesos for each quintal (220 pounds) of green coffee, due to a lack of transport to take the product to the de-pulping machine, which separates the beans from the fruit. Lack of a vehicle puts at risk months of work, and the efforts of hundreds of people.

Santiago Martinez, a farmer in the cooperative, explains that the de-pulping of the beans should have started in the first week of October, but the lack of a tractor “which broke five years ago,” has prevented it. The farmer complains that the cooperative’s directors have not resolved the situation. “Clearly, it doesn’t hurt them that we are losing money and have problems fulfilling the plan, because regardless they get a guaranteed salary,” he complains loudly. “They told me to throw the coffee in the dryer until the issue is resolved,” he added.

Western Cuba is one of the most important areas for the supply of beans processed by Torrefactora Select Coffee, located in Almendares y Santa Maria, in Havana.

This company in Cuba’s capital provides coffees such as Extraturquino Especial, Turquino, Serrano Superior, Caracolillo, Alto Serra, Cubita, Arriero and other brands, both for export and for the network of hard currency stores in the country.

Field workers get a tiny share of the proceeds from the State. While, 2.2 pounds of coffee in the so-called “shoppings” costs more than 16 convertible pesos (CUC, about $17.50 US), the producer only receives some 1,000 Cuban pesos, the equivalent of 41 CUCs, for each 220 pounds of dried green choice coffee, said Maria Dolores Dominguez, a Bahia Honda farmer.

Dominguez says that “25 pounds of ripe coffee is worth 160 pesos and to get 220 pounds of green coffee, which is the equivalent of 100 pounds of clean coffee ready for roasting, you need 600 pounds of ripe coffee.” She complains that, “If we send the coffee to the de-pulper right away, they pay us 3,840 Cuban pesos for every 220 pounds, but if we dry it in the drying areas, even though it comes out prime quality, they pay us only 1,000 Cuban pesos.”

In a meeting with the coffee growers of the area on October 26, Raul Gonzalez, president of the cooperative, said he had reported the transport problem to the provincial coffee company, but so far that has not produced any results.

The problems in Bahia Honda could contribute to the coffee harvest not meeting the goals of the national plan. In 2014, the island produced 13.5 million pounds of beans, only a quarter of the annual domestic demand, which stood at 53 million pounds. However, industry directors expect to produce 51 million pounds by 2020.