Freedom, Private Property Rights, Market and Profitability in the Cuban Countryside

Cooperatives are one of the forms of agriculture in Cuba. (Bohemia)

14ymedio bigger 14ymedio, Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 30 May 2022 — Cuban president Díaz-Canel wants to sound like Fidel Castro, but it’s hard. That way of approaching problems, as if he had a magic wand and the solution to everything, is leading him along the path to perdition. Castro did the same thing. Even when a threatening cyclone was coming, he became the television meteorologist to explain where it was going to go and where it was not going to go. Díaz-Canel has done the same with agriculture, and from there came a front-page report by the State newspaper Granma entitled “Producing food efficiently is the challenge,” which directly talks about how to feed Cubans every day.

Díaz-Canel met with agricultural producers to convey his impressions on what to do to “advance the processes of production, better use of land and promote the diversification of agricultural products; the objective is not to reduce production and planting but to do them in the most efficient way possible.” But you have the impression that he isn’t on the right track, that he’s not connected to reality. More or less like Castro, but look, it’s not the same. No one blamed Castro for his extravagances, like a deceptive cyclone that changed its trajectory and in the end went another way. Díaz-Canel should be careful.

No one at this point can have the slightest doubt. The Cuban communist regime may have two or three heartbeats left if it doesn’t find a solution to increase agricultural production. That is, so that a Cuban family can normally have three meals a day.

But any idea that occurs to the communists goes right in the opposite direction. With nothing better ahead, that idea of banishing food imports, because there is no foreign currency to pay for them, may end up creating more hunger problems and a terrible food crisis that blows everything up. In the short term, there is no choice but to import food and pay any price, no matter how high. The fault, as you know, lies with an ally of the Cuban regime: Putin, with his expansionist adventures in Ukraine.

Díaz-Canel speaks in an inappropriate way of “banishing the import mentality in an effort to meet the food needs of our population,” but he knows very well that, under current conditions, the agricultural sector is unable to feed the population. It may be very good to break that dependence in the medium and long term, but tomorrow, next month, things will be more complicated than ever.

And he doesn’t blame the bureaucracy and the obstacles that prevent the management of companies in this area, because he is solely responsible for that internal blockade, which we have denounced so many times in this blog. Freedom, private property rights, market and profitability are the principles that must be restored in the Cuban countryside, and in the economy as a whole, if it is to move forward.

But Díaz-Canel turns a deaf ear to these calls and remains silent on the subject of the application of science and innovation, which may be very good, and no one disputes it, but it must be raised over a longer time horizon. Tomorrow when they want to eat lunch and don’t have enough of what they need, Cuban families will not remember science and innovation at all.

He also spoke of “advancing production processes, better land use and boosting the diversification of agricultural products,” but this is impossible if the producers don’t own the land they cultivate. No one aspires to leave their mark on something that will never be theirs. Working for the communist state came to an end. Production and planting can only be increased and done in the most efficient way possible with private land-ownership rights, markets for the purchase and sale of plots and land, and private management of the agricultural sector. The land should belong to those who really work it. There is no other way; even the Vietnamese did it, and it was a wonder for them.

And then he talked nonsense at that moment, about “protein plants to increase the obtaining of animal feed, the production of feed with our own resources, or the development of mini-industries to take advantage as much as possible of agricultural production.” These are also things that don’t serve to solve the problem of tomorrow’s lunch.

The same is true of the use of bioproducts, even when the possible decrease in intermediaries between producers and agricultural markets is cited, and the speeding up of marketing in this area. No farmer supports the ideas that are included in the “63 measures.

Díaz-Canel knows that there is no point in publishing a Law on Food Sovereignty and Food and Nutrition Security or the 63 measures, if the crops aren’t harvested and the population can go to the points of sale. Something so simple and so easy to achieve in Cuba becomes, thanks to the communist economic model, a thankless task.

Hence, in the face of such a difficulty, which could be solved with the aforementioned recipe of freedom, private property rights, market and profitability, principles that must be restored in the Cuban countryside and in the economy as a whole, Cuban communists start rehearsing other collectivist experiments to see what comes out. Díaz-Canel is irresponsible, getting into these types of stories that lead nowhere. I am referring to the 19 “productive poles” that have been created throughout the country.

According to Granma, these poles are made up of 86 basic business units, 54 basic cooperative production units, 45 agricultural production cooperatives and 190 credit and service cooperatives, with an arable land area of 151,829 hectares.

Can these poles really solve the problem of tomorrow’s lunch? They are clear about it. The estimated production at the end of 2021 reaches a total of 706,200 tons of agricultural items,, only a quarter of the planned production. Honestly, such a bureaucratic and organizational effort to achieve only that percentage of agricultural production is unjustified. If private tenants obtained from the communist regime the same amount as these collectivist-inspired poles, they would surely produce much more than that quarter, and they would also do so more efficiently.

But the communist regime is more interested in poles and municipalities, in the commitment to transfer to the local representatives the responsibilities that the central government is unable to achieve because it has failed again and again. The local authorities are not in favor. This strategy that can even be counterproductive, but it offers an idea of how lost they are for not giving up failed ideological principles.

Especially worrying was Díaz-Canel’s message to the attendees: “We are called upon to train and mobilize government structures from the municipal level so that they are in a position to lead this production process with popular participation in the local stages and, in addition, to promote an intense process that reaches all local producers, both state, cooperative and private, the state enterprise and even the last farm, the agroindustrial productive pole, each local development project, favoring agroecology as a necessary alternative for agricultural production in the current circumstances.” What does this sound like?

In the midst of all this, Díaz-Canel called for “increasing exports, achieving the linkage of all producers through a state company, or in other cases of cooperatives and new economic actors also closely linked to production.” Not a single reference was made to the values of freedom, private property rights, market and profitability in the Cuban countryside. As if he were talking about another country, at another time. You have the feeling that every day that passes he is further away from the reality in which he lives, and it is not known if it is his fault or the court of party and regime sycophants that surround him. The same as Fidel Castro.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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