Elías Amor Bravo, Economist, 6 July 2023 — The steps that Cuban communist leaders say they are taking to “strengthen local food systems in all municipalities of the country” can give much worse results. This blog has previously warned that transferring production, which should be attended to at the national level, to the territories is a loss of efficiency, because resources are not used properly. If the authorities persist in the effort, let them be warned. This is not the way to achieve sovereignty or food and nutritional security.
The effort to transform local food systems has been one of the latest ideas of communist leaders for a little more than a year, as part of the actions to deal with the serious economic situation in which the economy finds itself, because of the Ordering Task.* The leaders’ slogan is that “there should be no patio, plot or piece of land unplanted.” But the State continues to maintain thousands of idle acres, which do not produce and do not become profitable. Behind this initiative is Prime Minister Marrero, who will end up reaping one more failure in his long political career.
It seems unbelievable that the communist leaders believe that there are strategies to strengthen local food systems in all the municipalities of the country. Apparently no one has explained to them what economic geography is and the remarkable disparity that exists between some areas and others for a productive dedication to agricultural tasks. That disparity favors the specialization and the search for economies of scale to produce at minimum unit costs.
Therefore, in Cuba before 1959, there was one head of beef cattle per inhabitant on the plains of Camagüey and the best sweet potato obtained in the fields near the capital. No one would think of raising cattle in the latter area or planting sweet potato on the Camagüey plains. The Spaniards had already realized these circumstances since colonial times. If it is now intended that the same thing will occur in each municipality and province, not even those commissions created to implement the measures will be successful.
Why have the communists come to these measures to take advantage of local systems? According to Marrero, because of the “financial restrictions faced by the country, the impacts of climate change, the global food crisis and the origin of food in imports.” And once again the question is, what do local systems have to do with these problems that belong to the agenda of governments? Isn’t there a covert intention of the regime to transfer its problems and responsibilities to others? Is there no one in local and provincial governments who doesn’t realize the trap they are setting for them? Well, it doesn’t seem so. And so, if no one or nothing says otherwise, this transfer of power will soon take place and will create first and second class Cubans at the same time.
The point is that with these measures it will not be possible to reduce the importations of food and, at the same time, increase the sources of national production. Quite the contrary. The dependence of imports on the financial resources that can be obtained once again poses the problem of the payment of debts, which the communists never talk about. But in reality, if Cuba does not have access to the international financial markets it is because it does not comply with payment of its debts, and, logically, no one wants to lend. So tell me what this has to do with local and provincial governments.
In addition, what no one understands is that 2 billion dollars are allocated to food imports, and at the same time, national productions of rice, beans, corn and pork continue to have low yields, very low production levels and very high financial costs. Something happens in the structure of the land that prevents Cuban agriculture from prospering.
Going to the 7,000 communities of the country to produce food, reaching the popular councils, constituencies, self-consumption, patios and plots, offers an idea of the current desperation of the leaders to produce food. A flight forward that will end up disrupting the productive structure, more or less the same thing that happened with the harvest of the 10 million. The leaders want everyone who has land to have to produce. Although they recognize that the level of self-sufficiency is insufficient for the demand, the official slogan is maintained: “We must sow and achieve compliance with what was designed in each municipality.”
Accompanied by this plan, the leaders want to perfect the process of contracting agricultural productions and at the same time, enhance the so-called urban, suburban and family agriculture program, with an agro-ecological approach based on the reserves and potential of each locality.
The actions proposed for this are hilarious, to classify them in some way. The communists propose “the transformation of urban farms, the use of the agricultural areas available in labor centers, the promotion of a popular productive movement, the consolidation of structures for obtaining organic fertilizers and bio-products, and the commercialization of productive surpluses, freely and directly, by families.” Except for the latter, which is conditioned by low yields, the other measures are absurd.
The regime insists that “we have to continue planting, because yields are limited due to objective conditions of the soils, substrates and irrigation systems.” However, no one assumes any responsibility for the idle lands that belong to the State and that cannot be obtained because of the obstruction of the local leaders who are responsible for applying the legal rules that have been published for this purpose.
And so, entertaining themselves with this nonsense, the population still does not find in the shops the food that it needs or must pay very high prices for the few items that are obtained in the informal markets. No matter how urgent Marrero says it is to apply these reforms, the truth is that a year has passed since the measures were implemented, and the results are even worse than before.
Once again, we warn that food sovereignty will not be achieved through this initiative to consolidate local food systems and even less so with the approach of the Law that is oriented to the elements of sustainability and resilience, when the priority should be yields and production. Communism, as an economic ideology, has no remedy.
*The Ordering Task is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.