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Issue #1913      May 4, 2020

PRODUCING MORE FOOD, MORE QUICKLY

With the tightening of the US blockade of Cuba and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on key sectors of the economy, boosting food production is essential.

Within the current context marked by the tightening of the US blockade against Cuba and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on key sectors of the national economy, boosting food production is essential.

Presently, Cuba imports some 800,000 tons of corn and spends US$550 million on animal feed, an unsustainable dependency which obliges us to focus on banishing the import mentality.

For these reasons, the Second Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, José Ramón Machado Ventura, joined by Central Committee Secretariat member José Ramón Monteagudo Ruiz and Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero, met with a reduced number of provincial and municipal leaders to review progress made on implementing food production strategies that emerged from regional meetings held at the end of March in Holguín, Sancti Spíritus and Havana.

Regarding the province of Artemisa Machado Ventura reiterated the importance of preparing all arable land and using certified seeds. This province has several commitments, including the production of charcoal, honey and tobacco, which may not be marketable now given the international situation, but when demand reappears, income will be ensured, he noted.

Artemisa is planting corn, for use as animal feed and to boost milk production, which is currently not meeting projections.

In Mayabeque, Machado Ventura and Vice President Valdés Mesa stressed that the government has prioritised national solutions as central to the economy, and that agricultural production is key in all this work; insisting on the importance of exploiting to the maximum all material and financial resources available to the sector, including fuel, fertilisers and foreign exchange allocated.

He reiterated that among established priorities for cultivation are rice, beans, corn and plantain, as well as production of eggs and pork, while calling for taking advantage of the spring season to plant short-cycle crops, an effort in which urban, suburban and family agriculture also play an important role.

Campesinos in Matanzas are sowing more than 24,000 hectares this spring as a concrete response to present needs – mainly short-cycle crops. Advantage is being taken of cleared land, now available with the potato harvest completed, an important contribution to saving fuel.

Machado Ventura emphasised that outdated habits must be overcome, especially the tendency to import needed supplies and sign contracts for only a portion of expected production.

Carlos Luis Naranjo Suárez, the Agriculture Ministry’s provincial representative, in Matanzas stressed the importance of increasing corn production, as well as improving yields for both beans and rice, as well as plantain and cassava.

Party Secretariat member José Ramón Monteagudo Ruiz praised work done in Cienfuegos to recover underutilised productive parcels of land and incorporate new ones, while urging that more land be granted in usufruct*. He stated that this process must be speeded up and the current strategy reviewed.

Some 5,000 new hectares under irrigation have been incorporated to ensure the food supply, with productive areas reactivated and others added. The Paso Bonito Cruces irrigation canal is now in full use; the Tablón factory has been revitalised to guarantee the supply of animal feed; and several agricultural projects are underway; while coffee planting in lowlands and charcoal production are advancing.

In Villa Clara, Machado Ventura called for intensifying the preparation of acreage and prioritising the planting of cassava, boniato and other crops to confront the pandemic, and create conditions to substitute imports.

He addressed the need to increase yields, which depends on the quality of seeds used and regular attention to plantings, with available supplies and equipment, which is no small feat, he noted.

“Agricultural development is a secure base because with it we can replace, if not 100 per cent of food imports, at least a significant portion,” José Ramón Machado Ventura stated in Sancti Spíritus.

The most challenging situation here is that faced by the Sur del Jíbaro Agro-industrial Enterprise, which was obliged to reduce rice planting to 700 hectares as a result of the Zaza reservoir’s low water level, but is looking to take advantage of ground water from existing wells on its property, while continuing land preparation and diversifying livestock production, as well as other crops.

In Ciego de Ávila, Machado Ventura insisted that the contracting process must be conducted correctly, going directly to the productive base, visiting farmers and insisting that every contribution is needed given the situation the country is facing.

The recently concluded potato harvest provided more than 19,500 tons to the population’s diet, in a campaign with limited availability of resources, fundamentally of phytosanitary products, which required a search for alternatives. Nonetheless, the province was able to send potatoes to Guantánamo, Granma, Las Tunas, Camagüey and Havana.

In Camagüey, where only 7.5 per cent of the arable area is irrigated, campesinos are obliged to prepare as much land as possible to take advantage of spring rains.

Dairy farmers here are under pressure since they are behind in scheduled deliveries to the industry, a deficit they hope to recover during the “peak” months of the current campaign.

“The country is making an unimaginable effort to save lives in this pandemic, and no resources are being spared. And I believe agriculture can make a significant contribution, but we must solve the many problems that have held us back,” Machado Ventura stated referring to Las Tunas.

Here, he discussed the province’s plans for the spring campaign, with more than 17,400 hectares being planted. He also took interest in the planting of corn, which is now planned for 3,900 hectares, a figure that participants in the meeting are looking to increase.

Machado Ventura insisted in Holguín that the mobilisation of personnel to the fields must be economically efficient, ensuring that the necessary forces participate, those capable of giving crops the attention they need.

It was reported that, to launch the spring campaign, 10,177 hectares have been sown thus far, mainly grains and root vegetables.

The province was asked to increase rice production. Any contribution is important for the country, Minister of Agriculture Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero noted.

“We must achieve truly diversified production, promote the mentality of substituting imports and promoting exports in all cooperatives and basic production units, whether they focus on sugarcane, crops or livestock,” Machado Ventura stated regarding the province of Granma.

Also analysed during the meeting here were rice and tobacco programs, as well as livestock indicators, areas in which the province makes an important contribution to state wholesalers.

Participants in this meeting agreed that exploiting all untapped potential and taking advantage of the effective experiences to reduce imports and promote exports is the best response farmers can offer to the US blockade and the new coronavirus.

* Usufruct is land given for use without rent or sale but it has to be worked on.

Granma

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