In Cuba, Plans are Imposed Upon Cattle Farmers from an Office and That is Why There is Neither Meat nor Milk

Cattle farmers lack the space to increase their herds of cattle. (Vicente Brito/Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, January 30, 2023 — Pedro Rubio Tristá is one of the most successful cattle farmers in Las Tunas, he provides many fattening bulls to the government and exceeds the planned meat and milk production. Furthermore, he says he receives payment in hard currency and sells sweet potato to the government at a good price. However, he committed an unforgivable error of selling five cattle to his cousin and, although the cattle mass did not decrease, that earned him the prohibition of slaughtering any animal in 2022.

“He doesn’t understand and considers it an extremism,” stated an article published in a state-run press outlet which details the problems faced by producers and clearly explains why there is no meat or milk in Cuban markets.

“It has been two years since an official came here. The plans for milk and meat are imposed upon us from an office,” snaps Dilber Leyva, president of a cooperative in Las Tunas which exposes the problems with dairy products and bemoans that leaders develop plans without noticing the peculiarities of the territory and, much less each individual.

Last year one of his producers, he says, had to deliver 500 liters of milk from the 10 cows he owns, but four of them were pregnant, which made it infeasible. “He had to pay a large sum of money for not meeting the plan when, objectively, he was unable to,” he reproached. At the same time, the rate of default on the fines is high because many of them do not have the money, which results in debt for the cooperative which, in turn, cannot pay. A vicious circle.

“The cooperative’s milk debt for fines increased to 215,000 pesos last year because 50 producers did not honor the projections. For three months we were unable to pay farmers because Empresa Láctea [the Dairy Company] withheld the money for the debt,” he continued. And to top it off, the bank (Bandec) doesn’t give them credit either.

Jorge Velázques is another one let down by the same case as Rubio. Between him and his brother, Blas, they delivered 36 fattening bulls larger than 450 kilos. Their cattle herd increased and they exceeded the production plan. However, it occurred to him to pass three cattle to their brother, within the same farm, and both were penalized with the same measure: prohibition of slaughtering even one cattle.

“With regard to the contract, the prices are unstable, the prices of the businesses that are supposed to help are very high, delayed payments are constant and the prices include taxes on our products because contracts are written according to the norms decided by only one person. That is not a contract,” he protests.

After having interviewed up to 20 farm workers, Periódico26 has not found a single story of satisfaction with the much-lauded 63 measures to stimulate agriculture and livestock.

The nonsense with the land is not minor. Cattle farmer Raúl Escobar owned, via a family inheritance, a large part of the land in his neighborhood, Indaya, on the outskirts of Las Tunas. He decided to give it up, he says, “to benefit the community,” but now he wants more space to increase the cattle herd and they won’t give it to him. “And we’re talking about one of the measures to stimulate cattle farming,” he protests.

Yoel Martínez Vargas, an Agriculture delegate in the province, stated that the root of all the problems is that those who decide do not get close to those who produce, and he calls for speed in providing land. “Still, not infrequently, farmers are after the leaders, when it should be the other way around,” he says.

There are more than 50,000 hectares in the province that are either idle or not fully exploited because they were granted without rigorous study, he states. The official calls for improving conditions for farmers by providing them with proper housing and reassessing their work so they don’t leave.

The article states that each farm worker owns just 13.42 hectares, which only allows for 13 head of large cattle, when there is “more than enough” land to provide him with the 67 hectares needed to for adequate production.

Another nefarious data point for the province — in Las Tunas, more than 1,200 producers fall short of the milk they need to deliver. Although the article adds that “in most cases the reasons are unknown,” the statements made by the farmers, compiled in the report, are very clear.

Martínez Vargas requests that those who understand, in detail, how the new measures function approach each producer and get involved in development.

The delegate took advantage of the document to announce the decentralization of the sector in the province. Empresa Integral Agropecuaria [Integrated Agriculture Company] will disappear and one will be created in each municipality; urban farms will be converted to mipymes (micro, small and medium enterprises) and Puerto Padre will be the first agroindustrial municipality in Cuba’s Eastern Balcony (Las Tunas), shifting to the local government. In his opinion, this should be good so the sector will make its own decisions and manage is eventual profits.

Yoel Martínez Vargas expressed that “the root cause is poor contracting because the production plans are not well-conceived. Right now, more than a few, are increasing their mass and they cannot slaughter them because the contracts are poorly written.”

On several occasions the report refers to the words of Vice Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca and his calls to “stimulate thinnking and creativity,” which serves as the headline for the article. However, those responsible never take responsibility for their errors and the solutions revert to being little more than good intentions.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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