December 6, 2007

Whither Cuba's Green Thumb?

Floods, storms, drought and heat, plus an array of economic concerns, are taking their toll on Cuban agriculture.

Inter Press Service reports that 75 percent of Cuban land used for crops and grazing has fallen into disuse, even as produce prices increase and the variety of crops available diminishes.

Raul Castro, who heads the Communist government there, said earlier this year that “structural and conceptual changes will have to be introduced” to address the situation.

Armando Nova, a Cuban academic in Havana, told Inter Press that increased local control over farming decisions, profitmaking, and allowing farmers to sell their crops directly at local markets, rather than mandatory sales to state agencies, are all necessary to boost cultivation and food production.

Source:

“AGRICULTURE-CUBA: Waiting for Announced Reforms”
Inter Press Service, December 5, 2007

3 thoughts on “Whither Cuba's Green Thumb?

  1. I’m sure that 48 years of a communist dictatorship with its inherent mismanagement and its predilection to gorge on natural resources until they are exhausted have nothing to do with Cuba’s lack of agricultural production.

    I am also sure that Cuba’s past agricultural successes dating back almost 200 years before the infamous revolution were nothing but an anomaly.

    The US, nature, God, bad luck, misaligned stars, sidewalk cracks stepped on, paths crossed by black cats, evil eyes, gypsy curses, broken mirrors (at least 7 of them), and a host of other misfortunes are to blame. It can never be the dictatorship’s fault.

  2. socialism, at least cuban-style, can mean poor services and inefficiency. i’ve seen it. cuban private farmers are more productive than the state farms. but “gorging on resources until exhausted” is way off base.

    cuba is one of the very few countries reforesting, and only one of two or three in otherwise-capitalist latin america. the cubans have mapped out the entire country for depleted or salinated soils and are taking action to restore them. they are planting trees by the rivers to stop erosion, and throughout the country, including in havana and other cities. they have excellent programs to watch over endangered flora and fauna. the special period forced them to learn to farm without chemicals, and fuel for equipment, and are now teaching other countries their organic techniques, such as the large-scale production of earthworm castings to improve soils. they have programs underway to restore harbors and other habitats.

    the special period and the ten-year drought that ended only with destructive hurricanes and rains had real negative effects. and don’t forget the u.s. blockade, which adds another layer of obstacles to the normal operation of everything, including agriculture.

    i don’t know about god as a factor, but i’ve never heard anyone in cuba blaming it, or the number of superstitions you mention, as causes for anything on the island. its many educated specialists are applying science systematically to improve the environment.

  3. The fact remains that Cuba’s agricultural production before the communist dictatorship expropriated all the commercial farms far exceeded the production yielded today. Considering the fact that this feat was accomplished using technology that was half a century old only underscores the reality of Cuba’s communist mismanagement of resources. This should come as no surprise to anyone since the Soviets wrote the book on industrial and agricultural mismanagement. A book that to this day, the castro monarchical dictatorship follows to the letter.

    Nonetheless, all of the “advances” you noted regarding Cuba’s organic techniques completely ignore the reasons they had to use them. The “special period” you speak of actually refers to the years Cuba had to live without the funding of the USSR. Even with the billions upon billions of dollars the Soviets sent communist Cuba during their heydays, agricultural production in Cuba has been in a steady decline ever since 1959.

    My sarcastic reference to the many forms of bad luck was meant to point out that no matter what happens in Cuba, the fault is always placed on someone or something else. And if you want to bring the US embargo into to play (your use of the word blockade is interesting and incorrect, but Havana would be proud of you), as far as I know and read everyday in the news, the US is supplying Cuba with plenty of agricultural products. The only difference between the US and the rest of the world is that the Cuban government has to pay cash. A requirement that makes sense since Cuba’s dictatorship has defaulted on practically every loan other countries have given them. But that’s another topic altogether.

    I understand that when it comes to agriculture, there are major natural forces in play that can wreak havoc on a small island’s production. However, the real problem with Cuba’s production is the communist/totalitarian system that has enslaved the nation for five decades. You want to see Cuba become the largest producer of sugar in the world as it was before the revolution? Get rid of the communist system. Otherwise, it will forever languish in an industrial and agricultural malaise.