Cuba is forced to import more than 400,000 tons of rice each year, 60% of the total amount of this dietary staple consumed on the island, according to official figures published Sunday by the daily Juventud Rebelde.
“The first challenge is to produce what we need. Although the planted areas have been increased in recent years, we still have a long way to go in making visible all the effort that is being expended,” said the director of the island’s grain research institute, Telce Gonzalez.
Cuba in 2011 will have to import almost double the rice it produces for consumption on the island, calculated at more than 600,000 tons.
Vietnam is Cuba’s main rice provider, according to government sources.
Cuba’s 11.2 million citizens each consume an average of 5 kilograms of uncooked rice monthly, or 60 kilograms per year.
Cuban citizens receive monthly allocations of rice on their government-issued ration cards which they can purchase at subsidized prices.
Juventud Rebelde emphasized that half the local demand for rice is met by purchases in foreign markets, and thus several of the country’s institutions have been mobilized to “consolidate” a program to increase its cultivation using some 50 varieties of the grain that can be grown in the island’s different ecosystems for maximum output.
In addition, the daily noted that Cuba for years has depended on the international market to meet its rice needs, particularly after the implosion of socialism in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, when the island lost its major export and import markets for capital goods, consumables and services, a situation that resulted in the “significant and rapid” reduction in state production of rice and other items.
In 2009, the Cuban Agriculture Ministry’s Rice Program launched a plan aimed to replace 29% of rice imports in that year with local production and replace 56% by 2013.