Cuban coffee production tumbled 90% in the last few years forcing the government of President Raul Castro to spend 50 million US dollars annually in importing the beans to ensure domestic consumption revealed the official weekly Trabajadores.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture Cuba once produced 60.000 tons of coffee but that is now down to ‘less than 10%’ forcing the country to purchase overseas 19.000 tons at a cost of 50 million US dollars which are a significant drain of foreign exchange reserves, points out the weekly.
Cuba needs to produce at least 29.000 tons of clean beans to replace imports, one of Castro brothers’ regime agriculture policy priorities. Trabajadores blames drought, hurricanes and the lack of fertilizer, herbicides, other chemicals and proper tools to work the land.
The weekly also claims that “enemy hands” have introduced exotic coffee diseases with the purpose of dedicating land to more profitable crops. Apparently the worst year was 2005 when the government had to pay for farm labour and pick the bill for the coffee subsidy, a basic component of the monthly basket rations every Cuban is entitled to.
“This is the bitter side of the coffee collapse”, says Trabajadores. However “Cuba is not going to give up 250 years of coffee growing tradition and there is a development 2009/2015 plan that will revert the situation”.
The strategy includes a new prices system and a reorganization of areas to be planted and harvested.
Cuba, with abundant fertile soil, (once the world’s leading sugar exporter) spends over 1.5 billion US dollars annually in food purchases (including sugar) and the situation has become a national security issue because international prices are high and the Castro brothers’ regime is cash short.
Since taking office from brother Fidel in 2006, Raul has liberated thousands of hectares of government land to farmers to toil privately hoping for a strong supply of local vegetables, fruit and other basic produce. The goal has only been partially successful since provision of inputs and commercializing produce remains the hands of the government bureaucracy.