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Cuba making it difficult for farmers to export coffee to the U.S.

Cuba making it difficult for farmers to export coffee to the U.S.

The U.S. State Department added coffee to a list of products
entrepreneurs within Cuba are permitted to export to the United States.
However, Cuban policies on the exportation of goods are making it
difficult for Cuban coffee farmers to utilize this change in policy.
BY EMILY WILLIAMS
willi501@miamioh.edu

In another step toward normalizing relations with Cuba, coffee grown on
independently owned farms can now be exported to the United States.

Nespresso, a Swiss coffee company owned by Nestle Group, announced last
month that they will be selling Cuban coffee in the United States. The
product,Cafecito de Cuba, is currently being sold as a limited edition
product.

On April 22, the U.S. State Department added coffee to a list of
products entrepreneurs within the Republic of Cuba are permitted to
export to the United States. According to the U.S. State Department,
those who can prove that they operate a business outside of the state
sector, as well as meet a variety of other requirements pertaining to
the business and its product, can sell their goods to American companies.

However, Cuban policies on the exportation of goods are making it
difficult for Cuban coffee farmers to utilize this change in policy.

“There is no way,” said Karell Acosta Gonzalez, professor for the Center
for Hemispheric and U.S. Studies at the University of Havana. “All
exports must go through state-owned companies. It’s in the Constitution.”

The United States’ embargo on Cuba, put in place during John F.
Kennedy’s presidency, restricts trade with Cuban state-owned and
operated businesses. These sanctions were initiated when Fidel Castro,
who seized power in 1959, publicized private land and companies, imposed
heavy taxes on U.S. imports and nationalized $1 billion in American assets.

“We cannot predict what the Cuban government will or will not allow, but
we hope that it makes this and other new opportunities available to
Cuba’s nascent private sector,” reads a summary and explanation of the
decision on the U.S. State Department’s website.

Since the State Department announced this change in April, the National
Bureau of Small Farmers Association (ANAP), a group of government
officials who represent Cuba’s farmers, published a statement about the
updated policy last month.

WE ARE FACING UP TO THE INTENTIONS OF IMPERIALIST POLICY, TO BRING ABOUT
DIVISION AND DISINTEGRATION IN CUBAN SOCIETY, WHICH IS WHAT THEY WOULD
SEEK WITH THE RECENTLY ANNOUNCED MEASURE.
Cuba’s National Bureau of Small Farmers Association (ANAP)

“Next to the workers and our entire people, we are facing up to the
intentions of imperialist policy, to bring about division and
disintegration in Cuban society, which is what they would seek with the
recently announced measure,” ANAP wrote in their statement.

In Nespresso’s case, the company is working with TechnoServe, a
nonprofit that works to form competitive businesses in impoverished
countries, in order to make the sale of Cafecito de Cuba possible.
Currently, Nespresso is buying Cuban coffee beans from European
importers before roasting and selling the beans, thus circumventing the
limitations of both the embargo and the trade policies of Cuba’s government.

In the future, Nespresso and TechnoServe intend to assist Cuban coffee
farmers in improving their business and farming practices.

From plantation to collaboration: Cuba’s coffee history

Cuba has one of the best coffee-growing climates in the world.
Conditions for growing coffee are best in warm tropical climates with
rich soil and limited pests, according to the National Ocean and
Atmospheric Administration. Cuba and other equatorial nations like Costa
Rica, Brazil, Ethiopia and Indonesia fall within what is referred to as
the “Bean Belt.”

Cuba’s coffee history goes back to the late 18th century, when hundreds
of French plantation owners fled to eastern Cuba during the Haitian
revolution.

Las Terrazas, now a designated UNESCO biosphere located about an hour
outside of Havana, used to be one of the areas with the highest coffee
production on the island.

According to Anais Tomayo, a guide at the park, there are 70 ruins of
coffee plantations in the 5,000 hectares that make up the park. Only one
has been restored for use as a museum and restaurant, the Buenavista
plantation.

On the plantation, the ripe coffee beans would be picked by hand and set
out to dry on circles marked on slabs of concrete. Every half hour, the
beans would be turned from side to side and, once dry, covered with palm
fronds. After 30 days, the beans were layered 30 centimeters deep in a
mill where the wooden wheel was used to crack the shells of the beans.

Until 1850, when the slaves started to escape, coffee was exported by
the tons to the United states. After hurricanes from 1844 to 1846 nearly
halted production, most plantations sold their slaves back to the
Spanish and ceased operations.

Today, the coffee beans brewed in the village come from coffee trees
that line the winding roads of the village.

“They harvest it themselves in their own version of the French method,”
Tomayo said.

Instead of circles marked on slabs of concrete on a plantation, the
coffee beans are strewn throughout the mountainous streets of Las
Terrazas to dry in the sun.

After the revolution in 1959, the Cuban government seized all
privately-owned coffee farms for operation through the state. This
change saw a dramatic decrease in production, and, starting in the
1990s, the government moved toward moving coffee farming from the state
to the private sector. Today, Cuban coffee farms are operated as
collectives—everyone who works on the farm owns and controls its operations.

A taste for Cuban coffee

Although coffee production has increased in the past several years,
international demand for Cuban beans forces most coffee farmers to
export much of their harvest. Many Cuban restaurants and coffeehouses,
though serving coffee in the Cuban style, are brewing with beans from
other countries.

Similarly, many cafes, coffeehouses and restaurants in Miami and other
areas of Florida with large populations of Cuban Americans serve “Cuban
coffee” on their menus. However, due to the embargo, these
establishments are serving coffee beans from other countries that is
prepared in the Cuban style.

Cafe Bustelo, a popular brand among Cuban Americans, is advertised as a
“Cuban-style” espresso since its beans, too, are not harvested on the
island. The company, founded in 1931 by two Cuban Americans in East
Harlem, is owned by Rowland Coffee Roasters, a Miami-based corporation
that was acquired by J.M. Smucker Co. in 2011.

The way coffee is served in Cuba, usually called café Cubano, a strong
shot of espresso sweetened with sugar as it is brewed, originated when
Italian espresso makers were first imported there.

According to Robert Thurston, a former history professor at Miami
University and managing partner of the Oxford Coffee Company, the Cuban
style of serving coffee is more similar to that of European than Latin
American countries.

“In Latin America, you find less preference for espresso whereas in
Europe you’ll find a huge preference for espresso and espresso-based
drinks,” said Thurston.

In other countries, though, authentic Cuban beans are starting to find a
place in the market. One British company, Alma de Cuba, exclusively
sells Cuban brew. In a deal made in 2014, the company pledged to invest
$4 million into coffee farming in the southeastern part of the island
over the next five years.

According to its website, the primary goal of their fair-trade business
is to “help restore Cuba’s coffee crops to their former glory.”

This article is part of the series Stories from Cuba, produced by
students from Miami University.

Source: Cuba making it difficult for farmers to export coffee to the
U.S. | In Cuba Today – www.incubatoday.com/news/article88165802.html

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