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Cuban Agriculture: New Decrees, Ideas from the 60s

It is no coincidence that, instead of changing its strategy, instead we see a familiar script from the past, and we know how it ends: fields overrun with marabou, taro at the price of caviar, and a notable decrease in the cat population.

La Habana
A vendor with little to sell in Havana.
A vendor with little to sell in Havana. Diario de Cuba

Due to the Government's inability to provide Cuban agricultural workers with the necessary supplies, the last five years —before the coronavirus— have seen a decline in agricultural production amounting to some 30%, also reflected also in producers' revenues, which fell by 50% in the same period. When we consider the fact that the amount of food available for the people was already very insufficient, we can appreciate the magnitude of this debacle.

A few days ago, however, Agriculture Minister Ydael Pérez Brito appeared upbeat on television, stating that there was "a more diverse range of offerings" at agricultural markets. And he was right; after a few critical weeks with nothing but chives and a few burro bananas, we progressed to this "splendorous present" in which one can also find sweet potatoes, bananas and, at times, some vegetables.

We have attained this marvelous "success" after the Ministry of Agriculture (MINAGRI) approved 106 measures in recent months "to bolster the agricultural sector and socialist state enterprises in order to advance under better conditions and increase the food supply." The last was the creation of "Agricultural Production Poles," which, according to Resolution 384/2021, consist of "a conscious, voluntary and orderly coordination and articulation system based on the integral management of agroindustrial value chains and processes of invention, technical assistance, agricultural extension and training to generate products and services with high added value."

A specialist in going around in circles, like a dog chasing its tail, Castroism moves, but does not advance, because its "production poles" are actually a throwback to the 1960s, reaching their pinnacle between the 70s and 80s, when major ones were established in all the country's provinces, such as those of Lenin and Máximo Gómez in Matanzas, Yabú and Quemados in Villa Clara, Horquita and Juraguá in Cienfuegos, La Cuba in Ciego de Ávila, Sierra de Cubita in Camagüey, Veguitas in Granma , and Laguna Blanca in Santiago de Cuba.

But it is no coincidence that, after six decades collecting dust on the empty shelves of agricultural markets, instead of changing its strategy the regime has rolled out an old plan whose outcome is all too well known: fields overgrown with marabou, taro at the price of caviar, and a notable decline in the cat population.

One only changes their strategy when they want to obtain a different result, which is not the case with the Cuban government, which has done quite well for itself with its canine strategy of chasing its tail. In three, four or five years, agriculture will continue to be a disaster, and the MINAGRI will then issue 100 or 200 new decrees that, although resolving nothing, as the more laws, the less food, it will seem that the Government is doing something for the people, which is the real goal.

These 2.0 production poles, and the other 106 measures, continue to conform to Castroism's statist-vertical scheme, a model that is extraordinarily efficient at controlling people, but incapable of feeding them.

What will happen next is a sequence we have seen a thousand times since Fidel Castro made the borders of his family estate in Birán coincide with those of the country: an attempt will be made to concentrate production in designated areas, in accordance with plans that will look great on the agendas of the bureaucrats, who, from their air-conditioned offices, will allocate agricultural resources —tractors, fuel, chemicals, irrigation, etc.— for uses other than what a free market would determine, such that they will be inefficient and wasteful.

You don't have to be a clairvoyant to foresee the future in a country that lives in a kind of loop, continually alternating between tragedy and comedy. News from two years ago reported the existence of 67 production centers in operation; of them, at the beginning of 2021 only 17 had export potential, and among that subset, only 7 had been authorized to do so, reflecting how the poles "coordinating state company," far from being a fertilizer favoring progress, is an herbicide.

In any case, if things continue to "improve" like this, the newspaper Granma will be able to once again run the headline, in large letters and with total conviction: "This time we are going to build socialism!"

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