Cuban Food Production on the Decline

Despite several years of agricultural reforms and large-scale investments by the government, Cuban agricultural production is lower now than it was five years ago, prompting some Cuban officials to question the wisdom of major ag reforms and leading some American farm organizations to push for a loosening of the existing Cuban embargo.

Since he took office in 2008, Cuban President Raul Castro, brother of famous Cuban revolutionary and former president Fidel Castro, has made increasing agricultural production a top priority. Cuba imports nearly 70 percent of its food, a situation that major Cuban leaders have deemed untenable.

In order to encourage production, the Cuban government has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to boost major Cuban staples like rice and beans, as well as more lucrative export crops like coffee. In addition, Castro has pushed for a gradual decentralization of production, removing much of the state’s role in the growth and sale of Cuban crops.

The investments, however, have not paid off. A recent estimate by Cuban agricultural officials places production at lower levels than it was in 2007. Some Cuban free-market advocates, however, believe that the reforms have not gone far enough and the island nation needs to expand free-market agricultural production even further.

In the middle of this news, some American farmers are pressuring Congress and President Obama to ease the existing embargo on Cuba, allowing farmers increased access to Cuban markets. With Cuba’s latest push for self-sufficiency apparently going nowhere, these calls will only intensify as American producers see an excellent opportunity to expand their markets south.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer