Saturday, December 24, 2016

Rice Might Be In Short Supply This Festive Season

Rice Might Be In Short Supply This Festive Season / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida, 22 December 2016 — Sad, paradoxical and
irresponsible — but real. Rice, the common denominator, and basic
ingredient, of Cuban cuisine, could be almost absent from the island's
tables at the end of the year.

The official press has already started its plan of offering free
publicity for the dinner parties which will be celebrated the coming
24th and 31st of December and January 1st in cinemas, cultural centres,
social circles and theatres on the island.

The idea, as they explain it, is to guarantee family enjoyment and
dining during the Christmas period and, fundamentally, for the coming of
the 58th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution.

For that reason, they have doubled the work schedules for catering units
and restaurants belonging to the government commercial chain. They will
arrange exceptional supplies to livestock markets and local market
places, and they are planning the sale of foodstuffs, from a variety of
crops to different types of meat. But … is there the productive support
to achieve this aim? As far as rice is concerned, no.

One of the directors of the agro-industrial company "Fernando Echenique
Urquiza" made the point, in the national press, that, although in 2016
the production of rice was much higher than in previous years, he could
not get hold of a good supply.

The government official blamed the problem on the early maturing of the
crop, but another worker in the sector proposed other explanations:

"During the rainy season, we had a lot of rain, which helped the crops",
was the rice expert's explicit and clear explanation.

"It's true that it was ready early, but there are other factors which
also have a negative effect, and not only in this harvest" he said.

"The country has developed an important investment programme to increase
rice production nationally. Agreements have been signed authorising
credits from the Import Export Bank of China (EXIM) for the purchase of
medium and high-powered YTO tractors, and financial arrangements for the
promotion of the national rice-growing agro-industry. We are setting up
new irrigation systems, repairing dryers and mills. Modern
seed-processing factories have been built and advanced equipment and
technology has been purchased.

"But we still cannot depend on a sufficient fleet of vehicles to
transport the product from the farm to the dryers, and to the
stores, let alone to the markets. Nor do we have enough combine
harvesters. And the dryers both here in Mayabeque province, and
nationally, do not have the capacity to deal with a good harvest. And
all of that is without taking into account the ridiculous price paid to
the farmers for the demanding task of producing the grain which is
irreplaceable in Cuban cooking", said the expert.

As a last resort, the government has had to make up for negligence and
inefficient production with last-minute imports, taking a hit with the
purchase price, which, in turn, has a clear impact, especially at this
time of year, on your average Cuban table.

Nevertheless, in spite of all these difficulties, for all Cubans, this
is a Christmas to celebrate.

Translated by GH

Source: Rice Might Be In Short Supply This Festive Season / Juan Juan
Almeida – Translating Cuba -

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