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Marabou and the Government: Making the Life of the Cuban Farmer an Ordeal

Marabou and the Government: Making the Life of the Cuban Farmer an
Ordeal / 14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez

14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez, Pinar del Rio — The Cuban farmer has only
two problems in being productive: the invasive marabou weed and
everything else.

When Raul Castro promoted a plan to lease idle land to the farmers and
invited them to make it productive using oxen, he overlooked the fact
that these parcels, in many case, has been infested with marabou weed
for over 20 years. It is an invasive species that is very difficult to
eradicate because to spreads through long rooms and creates numerous
shoots that rise to the surface and multiply in the subsoil when the
plants are cut or burned.

This means that it is impossible for any farmer to manually clear his 66
acres of marabou. It is when using technology that the odyssey begins.
Typically, a crawler-type tractor—operating on tracks instead of
wheels—with front blades is used to cordon off the marabou and burn it.
But the farmer has no right to directly contract for this service with
state entities, which are the ones who own the heavy equipment. Thus,
the application has to go through the board of the cooperative, but it
turns out that the tractors are broken or belong to companies that they
cannot contract with. The solution: wait for a miracle to happen while
“doing something” with the land for fear of having it taken away.

It is likely that, given the delays, then end up resorting to private
individuals with their exorbitant rates. So the farmer has to go to the
bank for a loan and on asking for the promised credit, the producer
discovers that they won’t give you more than 20,000 Cuban pesos (about
$800 dollars), if you don’t have anything to put down as collateral.
With that money you might be able to pay to clean up about half your
allotted land, so you make an inventory of the few things you can pawn:
The house? An engine? The old tractor?

If you managed to burn the marabou, the government guarantees you at
least five years of suffering chasing after herbicides and tools to
control the persistent shoots. Every time you prepare your land you will
have to turn to the black market in fuel because what the state has
assigned you is barely a symbolic amount.

The legal alternative would be to buy the gas sold in hard currency on
the highways by Cupet, but this could cost you 3,000 Cuban pesos for a
day’s work, because a tractor with the plowing attachment can consume
120 liters of diesel a day. That is if the farmer owns an old tractor,
because if not, it again becomes the story of an impossibility, that of
contracting with a state enterprise. Then you have to add the expense of
the contract with the private owner and the fuel.

When the farmer, finally, manages to have cleaned his land for
production, you can see that a new chain of obstacles and problems opens
before his eyes. He will have to sow on dry land, because pumping water
is a privilege with too many conditions attached: availability of
surface or well water, electricity or fossil fuel, a turbine with
capacity and an irrigation system.

Opting for the state “technology package”—which includes seed,
fertilizer and pest controls—implies selling the production to the state
company Acopio at extremely low prices (in comparison to what private
buyers will pay). In addition, they don’t deliver all the components of
the package at the same time.

When the time comes to market the products, the farmer will find that if
the buyers are individuals they cannot buy the entire crop, and the
State Collection System of Agricultural Products will leave many of the
fruits to rot in the field while the population in the city lacks them.

Source: Marabou and the Government: Making the Life of the Cuban Farmer
an Ordeal / 14ymedio, Ricardo Fernandez – Translating Cuba –

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