Congresses Are Not the Answer
Last May 17, the official Cuban press published draft resolutions prepared by the committees that met during the X Congress of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP); the resolutions were adopted at the closing session, held at the Theatre of the Revolutionary Armed Forces. A critical reading of these documents and the speech of the Minister of Economy, reveals a truth: the solution for Cuba’s inefficient agriculture does not depend on congresses.
The words of Minister Mariano Jorge Murillo seem to be the guide to the projects approved by the delegates to the Congress, because, roughly speaking, the resolutions responding to the “projection of the economy until 2015,” presented by the Minister: reduce imports of food and raw materials for animal feed; increase production of rice, beans, corn, milk, meat, coffee and other items; develop the national database of animal feed to replace the hundreds of millions of dollars that are invested in buying whatever it may occur within the country; and develop guidelines that constitute the essence of the 37 projects developed by the Committee No. 1: Production and Economics.
They recommend that state ministries further enhance rice production, design a program of not less than 100,000 hectares per year to produce beans and chickpeas, and other similar programs devoted to corn, soybeans, root crops, vegetables and fruits. In addition, they should: promote a program of micro and mini industry; refine the program of cattle development; increase pork production without increasing imports of feed; enhance the equine program to create new breeding mules and horses; develop a program with all livestock keepers to fatten up and sell their own animals directly to abattoirs; and develop a popular movement for the production of eggs without importing feed.
It also asks to extend the experience of urban agriculture to suburban areas and incorporate these cooperatives and plans; not allow any union to cut cane that is not planned to be ground; seed 100% of the remaining cane area in 2011 and by the next Congress reach a minimum of 54 tonnes per hectare. Also, support the recovery and development programs in coffee and cocoa; require each cooperative to complete an approved forest program for2015; approve a tobacco development program in the eastern provinces; increase the production of organic fertilizers; and request families that have the potential to produce rice, beans, oil, eggs, milk and coffee and to relinquish those products distributed by the ration stores at subsidized prices; and take steps to protect all their assets and avoid the State having to assume the cost of damages.
In short, the first thing that is obvious in the recently completed Congress is the lack of autonomy of the ANAP to discuss and agree on projects from the perspective of the interests of its partners. For example, an issue so vital to agricultural production and so rooted in the peasantry as is the current structure of land ownership was conspicuous by its absence.
It is clear that for decades the Cuban state has clearly demonstrated its inability to produce. Just remember that sugar production, the main agricultural product of Cuba throughout its history, in 1903, fresh from Cuba in the War of Independence and the incendiary torch, produced 1 million tonnes, an amount that is now almost a dream. A setback that forces Cuba to buy sugar from other countries to meet its external commitments. And one of the causes, though not the main one, of this failure lies in the ownership structure that concentrates the most and the best land in state hands.
However, private and cooperative sectors, despite the lack of autonomy, with less land, produce the bulk of agricultural products. Adding the 920,000 hectares delivered under Law 259, the cooperative-farmer sector has 41 percent of agricultural land, but contributes about 70% of the value of agricultural production, without taking into account that of the 920,000 delivered hectares, about half remain idle or under-used, either for lack of experience or because the owners in usufruct lack the most elemental tools to put them into production. For its part the state, with nearly 60% of the land produces only 30% of the output. Despite this overwhelming data, the state holds for itself the right to retain most of the land in its own hands and surrenders to the real producers as only small plots of usufruct.
As a result, Cuba, a country with a tradition of farming and a favorable climate has been forced to import an increasing percent of what it consumes, because despite all measures, the declined could not be stopped and nothing indicates that it can be by agreements achieved by the Congress of the ANAP; it appears that as the item was not in the speech of the Minister of the Economy, he decided not to address it. All of this indicates the vital importance of autonomy for any association, to avoid being ordered to discuss certain issues.