Cuba’s Diaz-Canel Does Not Understand the Food Situation, Rather, He Sees It Backwards

Cuban farmers have been hit hard by lack of inputs and fuel shortages. (Flickr / Kuhnmi)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 13 May 2023 — Perhaps someone could think that the script for the meetings the regime leaders are conducting throughout the Island could change at some point and gain a certain realism. An expectation that, unfortunately, hasn’t been met in Matanzas (nor in Mayabeque.) There, Cuban president Díaz-Canel once again repeated the mantra that food is a priority. Later, the state press referenced that message from the communist leader in relation to the increase in inflation for agricultural products. A serious issue that is at the origin of the social protests and growing separation between the people and the communist leaders, who didn’t even dare celebrate May 1st at the controversial Plaza of the Revolution.

Thus, if food is a priority and the main problem is food price inflation, what are they waiting for to take action? People are starting to get fed up with so many exchanges, that the state press describes as “sincere and profoundly critical”, during which, as previously in Artemisa, Sancti Spiritus, Villa Clara or Cienfuegos and Camagüey, they talked and talked about all sorts of things, many of them trivial, but they did not get to proposing concrete solutions to the problems. People get exasperated. And the worst of it is that, if there is a lack of trust in the county’s top leaders: Díaz-Canel, Marrero, Gil, etc., what they will gain is that people will begin to think the same of local and provincial leaders. They have been warned, they should prepare for the worst.

It’s the same old same old. The script has not shifted a single millimeter: the US ’criminal blockade’ is responsible for what happens, the party needs to perfect itself, power must be shifted to the territories and much remains to be done. A song, which surprisingly, is used later by the state press to attempt to gain some time in a critical economic scenario. The expectation now is that Minister Gil will offer real information on the economic situation during the next general assembly which has been scheduled with this topic as the order of the day.

As of now, what is not expected is for any delegate to demand explanations or responsibilities. It’s all the same, in no time the first semester of 2023 will be over, and in reality, the diagnosis will remain unknown for an economy that is in what economists describe as stagflation, a dangerous combination for its consequences — economic stagnation and inflation. The worst possible.

In the case of Matanzas, the provincial governor said that of the 264 agreements made last January, 195 have been met, showing management deficits. In Mayabeque they provided similar percentages of underperformance. The opposite could occur, that problems are not guaranteed to be resolved just by meeting the agreements.

Díaz-Canel says that much remains to be done, and the question is, what have the local communists been doing since January? The situation is grave in Matanzas where 16 companies report losses, a result that depends very much on the economic conditions created by Díaz-Canel.

They also spoke about the diminishing cattle mass and milk production, as well as not meeting the targets for fattening pigs and the slow pace, once again, of sugar production which will give way to another sugar harvest that is smaller than the previous year’s. A terrifying assessment of the situation that occurs in the rest of the provinces. The only highlight was the increase in exports of honey, charcoal and medical services. Incredible.

These meetings with Díaz-Canel, Marrero, and communist leaders with local regime representatives have placed food production at the center of the debates. As if the supply of agricultural products depended on decisions at the local level. The communists deny the existence in Cuba of agricultural holdings that benefit from large-scale operations, which allows them to achieve increasing yields, at lower unit costs.

They do not want that model because they prefer to maintain control of production so that consortia of economic power do not emerge able to escape from the ideological slogans. Thus, they want to take production to the local level, so that it occurs with small farms destined for small markets. A good example is milk, which sinks to state levels due to low farm yields, lack of motivation among ranchers, and the objective and contrasting fact that there is no milk to sell.

When paralysis strikes production, the only remedy is to review the production relationships. Even Marx would end up agreeing on this matter. If a system of production, any of them, is unable to feed the entire population and must resort to imports to cover food deficits, its design is distorted, inefficient, and should be replaced. The Cuban communists insist that the system continues functioning, and attempts to find solutions within the system, but that is impossible.

With regard to inflation, Díaz-Canel, who has been responsible, in large part, for the situation after the mistaken attempt to apply the so-called ordering task, should not say he was not warned. Prices increase in Cuba but not because people have more purchasing power and increasing demand. Prices rise because the supply is continually declining, for the reasons stated above.

And food prices rise more because agricultural production is at its lowest. Díaz-Canel is already delayed in beginning to solve problems and apply the correct decisions because the ones he’s applied until now have not yielded results. Precisely because they end up encouraging more and more reductions in supply, which must increase for prices to level off and begin to decline. Is it so difficult to understand the issue?

Díaz-Canel was worried he would not be capable of “ordering” prices, to avoid a surge in a “chain of intermediaries” because that is what, in his opinion, increases prices. He is mistaken; prices are currently rising and rising a lot, and not because intermediaries exist, which are outlawed by the communist regime. In Cuba, the only intermediary–the state through Acopio–is the one that creates these situations of food shortages in consumer markets. Díaz-Canel not only does not understand reality, but rather, he sees it backward.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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