14ymedio, Havana, 10 January 2024 — The Cuban State will pay more money to farmers this year for every quintal (220 pounds) of potato it buys, a measure whose real benefit – in light of inflation and the difficulty of obtaining agricultural inputs – is difficult to calculate. What will remain stable in 2024, according to the resolution of the Ministry of Agriculture published this Wednesday in the Official Gazette, is the price of potatoes in the retail market, which will continue to cost 11 pesos per pound.
Potatoes harvested with national seed will be paid at 1,204 pesos per quintal (26,175 pesos per ton), while the one grown with imported seed will cost 839 pesos per quintal (18,240 pesos per ton), the authorities reported. The cause: “the increase in prices of the essential inputs for potato production.”
The State cannot afford the luxury of generating “losses” or granting subsidies to producers
The State cannot afford the luxury of generating “losses” or granting subsidies to producers, it adds, so it empowers the Ministry to modify the prices which Acopio – the State Procurement and Distribution Agency – pays for food from the farmers. “The margin for the wholesale marketing of the potato will be shared between the parties by mutual agreement,” says the resolution, repeating the measure of past years.
This Wednesday, the Ministry’s website published a comment on the resolution in which it recalled its forecasts for the 2023-2024 potato harvest. The goal, they explained, is to plant 12,998 acres of potatoes to obtain an “estimated production” of 107,014 tons. Of the projected acreage, 2,224 will have national seed, and the rest will have imported seed.
“The country’s yields in the last five campaigns exceeded 21.53 tons, considering all the origins of the seed to be planted and the destinations of the production,” says the text, adding that in 40 years, since 1983, 29,564 acres of potatoes have been planted in Cuba.
In 2023, the price of potatoes in the retail market doubled, as it did in the previous year. Until then, a potato cost five pesos; through another resolution, the ministry argued that the increase in production costs forced drastic measures to be taken.
Potatoes harvested with national seed were then paid at 19,261.64 pesos per ton, while those obtained with imported seed had a lower cost, 15,174.52 pesos per ton.
In 2001, the record of 373,682 tons of potatoes was reached in Cuba, high quantities that were maintained for several years
In 2001, the record of 373,682 tons of potatoes was reached in Cuba, high quantities that were maintained for several years until, in 2010, the sale was liberalized. However, in 2015 bad data were recorded, with a harvest of 123,000 tons, which forced the Government to import potatoes to cover demand, mainly from the Netherlands and Canada. In 2017, potatoes returned to rationing, although those bad figures from the middle of the previous decade can be considered even enviable today.
Meanwhile, the black market is unfazed. A pound of potatoes in Havana reached 300 pesos and 200 pesos in Holguín on Tuesday, according to this newspaper. Even so, it is difficult to find the tuber, and, if the buyer succeeds, he encounters small, blackened and wet lumps, “as if the potatoes had been frozen.” This new variety, which the pushcart vendors sell on the street, is called “potato seed” by the people of Havana.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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