Cuban agriculture
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Beans, ah, the beans!

Beans, ah, the beans! / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez
Posted on December 31, 2015

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 31 December 2015 – Tiny and
tasty, they seem to look at us from the plate and mock the work it takes
to get them. Beans are not only a part of our traditional cuisine, they
constitute an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in
Cuba. The price increases these delicious little bits have experienced
in the past year is proof of the disastrous economic policy promoted by
Raul Castro.

When, in February of 2008, the former Minister of the Armed Forces
assumed the presidency of the country, many were betting on the
pragmatic character of his mandate. His sympathizers never stopped
reminding us of the phrase in which he asserted, “Beans are more
important than canons.” They predicted that our national agriculture
would work like certain farms managed by the Ministry of the Armed
Forces and the Youth Labor Army.

Hopes that overlooked José Martí’s accurate maxim, “A nation is not
founded like a military camp is commanded.” The behavior of a soldier in
the trenches can never be equated with a farmer’s day, and an officer’s
command to bend one’s back over the earth has nothing in common with the
efforts of a peasant to hire someone to bring in his harvest.

The harangues against the invasive marabou weed, launched by Raul Castro
in his first years as president, fueled expectations, as did his call to
put a glass of milk on every Cuban’s breakfast table. The Raulistas
discerned in those statements the soaring of food production and the
bringing down to earth of prices, to be consistent with wages. But
neither occurred.

Instead, in recent months consumers have suffered a significant increase
in the cost of agricultural products. If the year started with a pound
of black beans costing between 12 and 15 Cuban pesos, at the close of
December the price varied between 15 and 20 pesos – the wages of an
entire working day – reaching the staggering price of 30 pesos in the
case of garbanzo beans.

Meanwhile, the average monthly wages in the country only grew from 581
to 640 Cuban pesos (roughly $25 US), a symbolic increase which,
expressed in a worker’s purchasing power, equals about three more pounds
of beans a month. The results Raul Castro has achieved with his
much-vaunted methods are not far removed from the little his brother
Fidel Castro achieved with his grandiose agricultural and livestock
projects.

The usufruct leasing of land to farmers ran up against the bureaucracy,
excessive controls and the poor state of the leased land. El Trigal, the
experimental wholesale market, is a sequence of empty stalls, petulant
bananas and high prices. In reality, it is easier to find an apple
brought from thousands of miles away than an orange or chiromoya planted
in our own fields. For the coming year, the country will spend 1.94
billion dollars on food imports, and nobody even talks about the battle
against the invasive marabou weed any more.

“I have to earn my beans,” says a teacher, as he justifies dedicating
his workday to cooking pork, along with a portion of“Moors and
Christians”– as we call black beans and rice – that he sells illegally
to the workers at a hospital. Because yes, our lives revolve, rise and
fall around those delicious little bits that we long to put on our
plates. Expensive and tasty, they are the best indicator of the
General’s failure.

Source: Beans, ah, the beans! / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez | Translating
Cuba – translatingcuba.com/beans-ah-the-beans-14ymedio-yoani-sanchez/

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