The Cuban Regime Trips Over Itself in Justifying Its Request for Milk to the UN

Some 24% of Camagüey producers did not deliver a single drop of milk to the State. (Invasor)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 4 March 2024 — The Cuban Government has waited five days to respond to the revelation that, for the first time in history, it has had to resort to an urgent request for aid to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) in the face of milk shortages. The regime tries to tone down the uproar with a long article published in the official press, stating that the request was made as a function of the bilateral relationship, the long-standing cooperation, and the Strategic Plan for Cuba in 2024.

The Government considers the request normal and suggests that the independent press is exaggerating, but the truth is that the WFP itself pointed out how exceptional the request is, despite the fact that it has maintained collaboration programs on the Island for years: “It was the first time that Cuba requested help by issuing an official communication at the highest level of government.”

The WFP told the Spanish press agency EFE that it was aware of the situation from two different sources in Cuban ministries and that there was an “urgent need,” stressing “the importance of this request” in the context of “the deep economic crisis facing Cuba.” The request was made in December by letter, and the WFP has delivered “144 tons of skim milk powder.” But it added that there was no “time frame,” and the aid will be extended without a planned end-date, leading the agency to “mobilize additional resources” from “traditional and non-traditional donors.”

According to the report from Cubadebate, signed by Óscar Figueredo, deputy director of IdeaGoMedia – the regime’s media propaganda conglomerate – the ship that arrived from Brazil with 375 tons of powdered milk is the result of the collaboration, which, he emphasizes, had to be resorted to because of the “resurgence of the blockade.” He adds that 500 tons of the product were purchased from the United States, highlighting the standard payment conditions required: cash and in advance.

He adds that 500 tons of the product were purchased from the United States, highlighting the standard payment conditions required: cash and in advance

In more than a dozen paragraphs, the importance of the aid is minimized, arguing that the exchange is common and that Cuba is not only a recipient but also a donor. “An example of this is the annual donation of 2,500 tons of sugar since 1996, which has made it possible to help different countries in the world such as the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Honduras, Haiti, Ethiopia and Angola, among others,” says the article, without adding that this cooperation came to an end at least 15 years ago.

“The total value of the contributions made by Cuba to the World Food Program as a sugar donor amounted to more than 8 million dollars s of 2009,” it states. It inferred that the contribution ended because the Island has had a series of catastrophic harvests for years and has even ceased to have enough sugar for export and domestic consumption.

The report also outlines some of the projects that are developed in Cuba through collaboration with the WFP – which is said to support 120 countries, normalizing the situation – ranging from the planning and implementation of planting initiatives to training in the face of emergencies in events such as hurricanes and floods, among others.

“In a complex economic context as a result of the combined effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the impacts of adverse weather events and, mainly, the resurgence of the U.S. economic, commercial and financial blockade, the country faces great challenges to access international markets and financial sources, which has been aggravated by the unfair and arbitrary inclusion of Cuba on the List of States that Sponsor Terrorism,” thereby justifying the request.

It is inferred that the contribution ended because the Island has had a series of catastrophic harvests for years and has ceased to have enough sugar for export and domestic consumption

The text also highlights the effort to clarify that the Government controls what food is delivered, as it should. The statements seem to be aimed at controlling the rumors about the appearance in the markets, on different occasions, of food donated by the WFP, as was the case of Russian oil in 2021, or the coal and mattresses delivered after Hurricane Irma in 2017, when some citizens had to pay the State for these items.

Several paragraphs at the end are dedicated to noting Cuba’s historical achievements in life expectancy, maternal and child health and low infant mortality, which have been constant since 1959, especially thanks to the Russian subsidy, and which have allowed the country to maintain good data in the regional context, but whose deterioration in recent years has become evident. In addition, it once again claims the right of the population to food and criticizes the “hostility” of the United States towards the Havana regime, which “impedes normal access to international resources and global banking relations.”

However, at the same time, the authorities are recognizing that there is a lack of milk, and the problem is not only the shortage of money to import it from abroad. The Government has been unable to guarantee the product by stimulating  milk production. This weekend, an article from the provincial media of Camagüey, formerly a dairy power, delved into the alarming situation of the sector.

The beginning cannot be more forceful: “In January, the delivery of milk to the industry began badly, and February followed the same path,” summarizes the report, in which it is made explicit that many producers (24%) have not sent “a single liter to the factories.” In 2023, barely half of what was planned was delivered, less than 42 million liters, compared to the 81.4 million liters expected. The number of farmers contracted by the State has gone down, from 8,581 in 2022 to 7,671 in 2023 and 7,448 this year.

“For this, a logical explanation must be found,” the newspaper claims, as if it were a secret that theft, disease and malnutrition, non-payments and arrears, deaths and low birth rates were not the perfect framework for no one to want to deliver milk to the Government.

The article states that non-payments will no longer occur, since the money is insured, say the dairy managers, who are hard to believe after years of non-compliance. The farmers themselves, interviewed for the article, assume the blame for the situation, which led nine municipalities to lower the amount delivered.

“It’s a management problem that depends a lot on us, to make sure that the cows have water, mineral salt, conditions of shade and tranquility before they are subjected to milking. The use of protein plants in the feeding of the livestock has been a constant,” says Isidro Saavedra Salazar, one of the farmers who traveled to Havana “on the Government’s instructions to acquire knowledge in that field.” His example is seen as a sign that “with effort” they can comply with the deliveries, which will allow children and the sick to eat, in addition to the existence of other products such as butter, yogurt and cheese.

But reality didn’t escape the many readers who commented on the article. The country’s food does not depend on the individual effort of the farmers but on the policies of the State. “It’s impossible that at 20 pesos per liter (.26 gallons) someone wants to produce milk; aren’t there any economists who dare to tell the truth?”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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