“From Harvest to Table” 2006 – The Series: Working the Revolution – Volunteer Farm Work in Cuba: 1992-2006
By Ron Ridenour
Feb 17, 2007, 15:52
Food Distribution and Marketing in Cuba
When I worked in agriculture in the early 1990s, one of the greatest problems was the distribution system. The December 1993 national assembly sessions included an alimentary report by Candido Palmero, former head of agricultural contingents. He said that the contingents and the new cooperative UBPCs could guarantee their production goals but he couldn’t guarantee that “you will eat all harvested crops, because we don’t have our own trucks to distribute goods.” Candido considered the state centralized food distribution centers, Acopio, a disaster!
Although Fidel and other state leaders expressed interest in changing the system and distributing directly to local markets, there remains much to be done. In contrast to then, however, other forms of distribution are allowed. For example, most ANAP cooperatives have converted to the Credit and Service Cooperative (CCS), which own and share farm equipment, and many CCSs own their own distribution trucks, a significant advantage over most state cooperatives.
Most private producers distribute directly to designated farmers markets, but they must buy gasoline and parts in the convertible currency (cucs). If they distribute their own crops, they also lose precious time from the fields or they must employ drivers and (illegally) vendors. Nevertheless, direct distribution to market places is common fare for 25,000 individual farmers, for nearly 2000 CCSs and the remaining 750 Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPAs), and the farmer-soldier EJT. Even a few profitable UBPCs and granjas have sufficient funds to buy vehicles and distribute directly to markets, or they set up stands where people can buy those products remaining after sales to the state.
Distribution and Investigative Journalism
A couple carrying their groceries home from market in Havana
Matías Cabrera did not see any problem with the traditional Acopio system.
“Improvements have occurred since your time. Both producers and distributors are better in advising one another concerning times of harvest, how much shall be collected and what days the trucks will arrive,” the UBPC farm director told me.
“We get three different prices for our products—one for the libreta rations, another for the state controlled farm markets, and a third from the tourist hotels. The Acopio collects and distributes more exactly.
“Thievery of our products is prevented because a farmer rides in the trucks. He observes what is delivered where and sees that the correct payment is noted. Control is better.”
In February 2006, the Communist party newspaper, “Granma”, conducted an unusually critical investigative series about problems in agriculture, farm markets and distribution. “Granma” confronted distribution problems, which Matías apparently oversaw, when it interviewed the Acopios national leader, Frank Castaneda Santalla.
“We recognize that our transportation is deteriorated. Four hundred trucks are inactive for lack of parts and repairs. We have 1,200 trucks for the whole country, and only 60% are active. The Ministry of Agriculture has recently invested funds in tires and batteries, in order to reactivate 172 trucks and 92 trailers. Most of our trucks are from the old socialist Europe. They have 20 years or more of use and consume enormous amounts of fuel.”
Read the rest here.