Agriculture and Food

Challenges for Agriculture Post-Covid-19

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The agricultural sector will play an important role in the post-Covid-19 phase in Cuba but it is not without its challenges and difficulties. Plans to reduce food imports and ensure food security for the population are currently under review and development for new guidelines to 2030.

Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero said the priorities for the sector include increasing planting, harvesting, food production, product transformation, and increasing sales in the domestic and export markets.

Agricultural production in Cuba faces two major hindrances. One is the current Covid-19 pandemic and the other is the United States embargo/blockade against the Island. The global economy has experienced major setbacks because of the pandemic. U.S. policies against the Island cause problems for Cuba in banking, trade, payments, access to fuels, fertilizers, pesticides, to name a few, which affect food security and agricultural production.

Distribution of usufruct lands is an important part of the plan to increase food security. Since March, 5,580 applications have been submitted for usufruct lands. To date, 5,773 applicants have received land from the state. Many of these lands have already been planted.

The urban agricultural system includes 808 micro-industries that produce 336 tons of preserves, nectars, pulps, bananas, cassava, sweet potatoes, and taro which serve as food for people and animals.

There are difficulties in rice and pork production, both main staples of the Cuban diet.

Lack of fuels, fertilizers, and pesticides has created problems for rice cultivation. Pork production has been hindered by the supply of feed since last November. Land has been allocated to farmers with the goal of improving the situation.

Minister Rollero stated that this year producers will only be able to guarantee the processing about 6,000 tons of meat per month. This figure represents only a third of the 17,000 tons required to maintain an adequate supply for the population.

Coffee production for export has done reasonably well and is due to a combination of strategies to revitalize the industry. The strategies include land for production, the reactivation of pulping machines, quality testing, and the creation of certified seed banks.

Coffee for national consumption has produced 589 tons from the most recent harvest. Although average annual growth rates of 15% have been recorded, this is not enough.

In the mountains of Cienfuegos, one of the three major coffee producing areas on the Island, there are plans to export 170 tons of coffee.

Bermúdez Sánchez, Director of the Coffee Processing Company in Cienfuegos said that in 2020, international exports from the region reflect an increase in international sales in spite of the limitations of the Covid-19 pandemic. The company reported that 117 tons of the Crystal Mountain brand had been shipped overseas.

Another company that has reported success in food exports is the Empresa Agroindustrial Ceballos Company (DCballos) in Ciego de Avila. DCballos is one of the leading agribusinesses on the Island, producing and exporting mango puree, fresh mango, pineapple, hot chili habanero pepper, and charcoal to foreign markets in Spain, Canada and France.

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Foreign investment opportunities in the AG sector remain open to investors. There are opportunities in livestock, dairy, meat processing or fish conglomerates, rice, corn, soybeans, grains, fruits, (juices and pulps), coffee, cocoa, coconut, vegetables, spices, flowers, storage of grains, milling of cereals, food processing, diet foods.

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