The Ranchers of Sancti Spiritus Try to Increase Pork Production in Cuba

The general director of the Sancti Spíritus Pork Company explained that agreements are being recovered with producers, who contributed more than 90% of the meat. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 21 November 2022 — Pork production in Sancti Spíritus will be around 1,500 tons this year, the same figure that was obtained in a single month in 2018. That year, the province exceeded 17,000 tons, while in 2021 it remained at just 4,000, which seems even enviable today. Between January and September 2022, only 600 tons have been produced, and perhaps the forecast will not even be reached. The provincial producers are clear about it. “Reaching the production we had previously will take years. How many? We don’t know.”

A report published this Monday in the provincial newspaper addresses the situation of pork meat, a product that has gone from being the Dow Jones index of the Cuban domestic economy to being present only on the tables of the luckiest. This food is missing from state markets and, when it’s found in private markets, the price is heart-stopping.

Although the newspaper warns that there is no room for “a shred of triumphalism,” Escambray congratulates the provincial authorities for being the province that has managed to have the most breeders in the country — 4,599 as of September — and can now reactivate pig-fattening for the State.

The general director of the Sancti Spíritus Pork Company, Rolando Pérez Sorí, explains that since April the agreements with the producers, who contributed more than 90% of the meat, are being recovered, “with the entry of a certain amount of imported starter feed, which was sold in hard currency to the producers. It was used by national producers as a balanced food; the daily weight loss in the animal is lower, but the weight gain will take a few more months. The feed is reviving the animals,” he said.

The official uses the press to encourage producers to give the meat to the State through the receba — the final fattening stage. The State offers 600 to 800 pesos, depending on the animal’s weight. In the informal market “it barely exists, and when it does it costs nothing less than 4,000 pesos.” In addition, Pérez says, the initial feed is guaranteed at that stage of breeding, and a level for the feed is guaranteed.

“We agreed on the sale to the producer of starter feed in currency with a return, so he can recover the investment,” he said. The official says that some meat is already being marketed at 200 pesos per pound at the Sancti Spíritus Fair — although the amount of the product is still too small — through the purchase of backyard pigs. “This year there is no plan with Commerce and Gastronomy, and there are few orders for the meat industry,” he adds.

Pérez believes that things are going to go very slowly and that the first thing to solve is the lack of feed for the animals, although he is moderately optimistic. “There are producers motivated by the prices of corn and soy beans to sow them and contract delivery to the company; there you can see a recovery. Not the one we want, or the one the people need, but we are no longer at zero.”

In Sancti Spíritus, the authorities estimate, there are about 217 producers who meet the conditions to sign agreements with the State. Until October, only 33 had closed agreements, and although there are already 11,900 pigs on the feed, the meat is just starting to arrive.

“Complying with the state commission, the immediate thing would be to maintain offers at the Sunday Fair and sell some amount to the population by the end of the year,” says Leonardo Hernández Aulé, head of production at the company dedicated to the production and commercialization of pork meat in the province.

A producer belonging to a cooperative, Pascual Balmaseda Escobar, who has already signed two agreements with the State, admits that many of his colleagues think he’s nuts; where before producing a ton of pork cost 20,000 pesos, it now exceeds 120,000.

He, however, points out the advantages. “If you want to have pigs you have to have soil and to sow. The food from the pig doesn’t cover all the expenses and never has, but it’s realistic to think that it can happen. Now, if we want to produce pork intensively, we need to import the starter feed and some nutritional supplements, which are already produced in Cuba,” he says, defending himself.

Yurisdel Fábrega, another producer summoned to testify about the positive aspects of working for the State, affirms that without the starter feed and the protein supplement they can’t raise pigs or produce meat. “When there is feed there is pork (…) but without the protein we are nothing. No matter how much corn, bran or cassava you throw at it, the pig needs that nutritional element,” he says. In his case, he began in April with 360 pigs and then expanded to 600, which are already providing meat to the province despite the fact that, he reveals, several animals have died.

His verdict is clear: without a loan it’s impossible to raise pigs. “More producers aren’t suddenly joining because this is hard; it’s not like before; it takes a lot of money, spending about 95,000 pesos daily on food.  Now, if you don’t get credit from the bank, you can’t do it, because, seriously, there’s no one who can. Here I have 6 million pesos invested to feed 600 pigs; previously, with a credit of half a million pesos I could fatten them,” he says.

Rolando Pérez Sorí also does the math. “Spending 3,000 pesos per 200 pounds of soy, 2,500 for corn, paying the producer for a ton of meat at 220,000 pesos, comes out to about 100 pesos per pound standing, while the individual pays for that pig at more than 200 pesos. It’s very difficult to put the state sale price below 200 pesos per pound. It’s a real competition and an obstacle to developing state production in the middle of an adverse scenario,” he maintains, while he waits for pork to reach the tables of some citizens who have already lost count of the last time they tasted the animal.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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