Cuban agriculture
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The Figures Say It All

The Figures Say It All
ROBERTO ÁLVAREZ QUIÑONES | Los Ángeles | 4 Dic 2015 – 4:03 pm.

In Cuba, private farmers, whether individuals or organized into
cooperatives, only work 23.4% of the country’s 6.3 million hectares of
arable land, while the State owns the other 76.6%, or 4.8 million
hectares, according to data from 2015 National Bureau of Statistics and
Information (ONEI).

Of that 76.6%, Stalinist-like state and quasi-state enterprises, dubbed
Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), managed by the Government,
enjoy the best lands and financial resources, controlling 50% (3.2
million hectares), while the other 26% consists of land leased by the
regime to some 172,000 usufruct farmers.

According to the ONEI, in the first half of 2015 the country produced
5.7 million tons of meats, vegetables, rice, beans and fruit, but
state-owned enterprises and UBPCs were responsible for just 10% of that,
or 570,000 tons. The other 90% was produced by private farmers and
usufruct growers, with a total agricultural area of just 3.1 million

Surprising? Not if you consider that about 2,360 years ago Aristotle,
refuting his teacher Plato, realized that private ownership was
preferable to collective because the “the diversity of humanity is more
productive” and “commonly-held goods receive less care than what is
privately owned.” The dreamer Plato, meanwhile, proposed abolishing
private property to build a perfect society based on collective or
communal property.

In the 13th century, in the heart of the Middle Ages, the philosopher
and clergyman Thomas Aquinas argued that “individual owners are more
responsible and administrate better.” Half a millennium later one of the
founders of the modern era, Scotland’s Adam Smith, discovered the
“invisible hand” that no one had noticed before and that makes the world
go round. “In seeking his own interest,” Smith wrote in The Wealth of
Nations (1776), “men often better serve society than when they actually
seek to.”

That is, by natural instinct all human beings seek a clear personal
benefit and, as they do so, it is society that benefits. The material
wealth of a nation is nothing more than the sum of the wealth generated
by its individuals.

That was what the former Spanish President, Felipe González, conveyed to
Fidel Castro in Havana in the mid-80s: “Fidel, the lettuce I grow in my
back yard will always be better than what the State does.” The dictator
replied that the State is more likely to use technology, money and other
resources to achieve greater productivity.

In the late 50s a Marxist economist leader, Oscar Pino Santos, leader of
the Popular Socialist Party (PSP) complained in an essay that Cuba was
importing no less than 29% of the food it consumed, a crime caused by
the domination of major landowners and “exploitation by US imperialism
and the national bourgeoisie.”

Today, under socialism, the country now imports 80% of its food ($2
billion per year) and the sprawling swathes of State-owned land produce
even less than when the PSP descried the situation.

In Cuba, according to the ONEI, only 3.4 million hectares are actually
cultivated. That is, 54% of its land produces nothing. In 2014, of 1.8
million hectares of land owned by the large centralized state
enterprises, only 329,584 hectares were being cultivated. In other
words, 17.8% of the total.

“Oppressed” Cuba ate better

Back when Cuba was “plundered” by capitalist private property, it was
actually self-sufficient for beef (in 1940), milk, tropical fruits,
coffee and tobacco. And it was almost self-sufficient for fish and
seafood, pork, chicken, meats, vegetables, and eggs. It was the Latin
American country with the highest fish consumption, and third in calorie
consumption, with 2,682 daily. There was one cow per inhabitant. And the
country ranked 7th in the world in average agricultural wage, at $3 a
day, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Regarding private property in general, and not only in agriculture,
according to the UN Statistical Yearbook of 1958 Cuba ranked eighth in
the world in average industrial sector salary, at $6.00 a day, above
Great Britain ($5.75), West Germany ($4.13) and France ($3.26). That
list was headed up by the US ($16.80) and Canada ($11.73).

That same year, Cuba ranked second in Latin America in number of cars,
with 40 inhabitants per vehicle; boasted the most rail track in Latin
America, with one kilometer for every 8 square kilometers; and was a
leader in television ownership, with 28 inhabitants per unit (third in
the world).

The island “dominated by imperialism” had the lowest inflation rate in
Latin America, at 1.4%, and was the third most solvent economy in the
region, thanks to its gold reserves and the stability of its peso,
always on par with the dollar. It exported more goods than it imported,
and had a positive trade balance. It was the Latin American country with
the lowest infant mortality rate, and that which dedicated the highest
percentage of public funds to education: 23%. (Costa Rica, 20%;
Argentina, 19.6%, and México, 14.7%). In 1953, France, Britain, the
Netherlands and Finland had, proportionately, fewer doctors and dentists
than Cuba.

In 1958 Cuba was also the Latin American country with the most theaters
(in proportion to the population); was second in number of newspapers,
with 8 inhabitants per copy, after Uruguay (6); and second too in
telephones, with 28 inhabitants per device.

In short, that nation subjected to the “voracious” greed of capitalism
and private property was one of three wealthiest Latin American
countries, measured by per capita income, at $374; double that of Spain
($180) and almost equal to Italy.

But in 1959 the Castro brothers seized the power, implemented what Plato
had proposed, and the results are obvious. In a country that attracted
immigrants from around the world (1.3 million immigrants between 1902
and 1930), now almost everyone wants to emigrate, in any way possible,
because “the situation is getting worse.”

Nearly 57 years of Marxist-Leninist dictatorship have rendered Cuba one
of the three poorest countries in the hemisphere, the most
technologically backward, and one lacking the most basic human freedoms.
Despite the dramatic evidence, the corrupt political/military leadership
is dedicated to “revising” socialism, and refuses to unleash Cubans’
creative potential.

Castroism acts to restrain the invisible hand that built the modern
world, instead insisting on a philosophy summed up by an old saying from
the Spanish countryside: “The master’s eye fattens the horse.”

Source: The Figures Say It All | Diario de Cuba –

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