Cuban agriculture
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The Price of Food in Cuba

The Price of Food in Cuba
April 13, 2012
Erasmo Calzadilla

HAVANA TIMES, April 13 — In this state of chronic disinformation,
perpetual news media manipulation and isolation in which the typical
Cuban lives, if you want to break the informational blockade you have to
become expert at decoding sources, while not despising any of them – no
matter how disgusting they appear.

That is why I occasionally resort to the official Granma newspaper.

For some time now, that rag of the Cuban Communist Party has been
devoting whole pages to the recovery of agriculture. Occasionally it
comes out with critical articles, but the overwhelmingly majority are
little more than "we can do it" motivational pieces and triumphalism.

If all this were effective, it should have had the impact of reducing
food prices. So what happened?

The same newspaper has published many articles about the rising price of
food – around the world of course. According to the February 11th
edition from one year ago, the price of "jama" (food) in the world rose
by 2 percent.

But a week earlier, on February 3, a rare (by virtue of being sincere)
Granma article reported that the prices of Cuban agricultural produce
increased during that same period by 20 percent.

Lifting a mouthful into one's mouth is becoming something increasingly
difficult in this land of the Mambi independence fighters.

A dreamer might ask Granma about the comparison between these bits of
data (2 percent worldwide, 20 percent in Cuba). Nor does that newspaper
contrast this fact to its reports on the dramatic benefits of the recent
reforms in the Cuban countryside.

But that's why we're here: to put information into perspective and try
to piece together the puzzle.

Concerning the causes and solutions of this problem, what's interesting
is what I've been hearing on the street.

Many people blame the resellers and paladars (small private restaurants)
for sucking up what little is produced. Others like Pedro Campos
maintain that the government has encouraged a kind of micro-capitalism
in the fields (making this responsible for the increase in prices),
rather than promoting the creation of true agricultural cooperatives.

I think both approaches have a point. What's needed is the integration
of these and other explanations, such as people's slackness.

In my neighborhood, intermediaries openly stockpile products that the
government brings to the agricultural markets. From time to time
inspectors will pass through and catch a few of them, but as soon as
they turn the corner everything goes back to "normal" and the buyers end
up paying the fines.

People might protest, but there's no sign that their discomfort is
generating any kind of collective action against hoarding – at least I
don't see it.

Thus, it seems that Ernesto "Che" Guevara was a little bit ahead of his
time when he said: "Humanity has said enough!"

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