Moringa, Fidel Castro’s Last Obsession, Is Being Processed in Sancti Spiritus

The authorities of Sancti Spíritus inaugurated the first moringa powder processing plant. (Prensa Latina)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 May 2023 – – Fidel Castro’s “dream” of mass consumption of moringa, a tree from India with medicinal properties overrated by the Cuban leader, has still not died. The latest invention is the inauguration this Saturday of the first moringa powder processing plant in La Sierpe, Sancti Spíritus.

Located in the Agroindustrial Enterprise of Granos Sur del Jíbaro, the plant has an installed capacity to process 20 tons of moringa powder per year, whose supply will come from 25 acres of plantations. The main markets are the pharmaceutical industry, export and sale as a nutritional supplement in the manufacture of cookies.

Concepción Campa, advisor to the project, was in charge of  Castro’s “ambitious project” and said that with the start-up of the plant, “another of his dreams is now coming true,” according to the official news agency Prensa Latina.

The factory has Austrian machinery for drying the leaf in conditions of airtight darkness, a process that prevents the denaturalization of chlorophyll and other nutritional properties of the tree.

Campa pointed out that moringa, known by many as the “miracle tree,” has several anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties, as well as being a source of protein. In addition, the official added, it helps to “cure up to 300 diseases.”

“The creation of the plant will generate various benefits for the local economy. First of all, it will provide a nutritional supplement for human beings, as well as protein in the feed for sheep, goats, pigs and poultry,” Prensa Latina said.

The cultivation of the plant is a forgotten project, which from time to time is remembered by the official press with promises of an increase in production. In 2021, the Bayamo Agricultural Company and the Grass and Fodder Research Institute carried out a study in which they found the feasibility of replacing the raw material for animal feed with moringa-based feed.

According to that study, the import of food for livestock costs 550 million dollars a year, an expense that the country cannot assume if it also wants to recover bovine production, which is increasingly declining due to the lack of inputs and increase in cattle theft. In this way, the research proposed that making a ton of feed from the plant would cost 561 pesos, almost a third of the 1,500 pesos it costs with imported materials.

Castro’s obsession with moringa originated in 2011, when the Cuban government ordered two pounds of seeds from a Canarian farmer who, impressed, sent him four, according to the Spanish scientific website Sinc. The former Cuban ruler was at that time convalescing far from public life, but he kept publishing his texts in the national media.

In one of his last delirious Reflections, disseminated by the official press, Castro wrote that “the conditions are created for the country to begin to massively produce moringa oleífera and mulberry, which are also inexhaustible sources of meat, egg and milk, (and) silk fibers that are spun by hand.”

After his death in November 2016, the plant lost prominence on the Island, and its consumption was reduced mainly to pills, tea and cookies sold in pharmacies.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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