Friday, March 24, 2017

Cuba and Its Rotting Tomatoes

Cuba and Its Rotting Tomatoes
March 23, 2017
By Fernando Ravsberg

HAVANA TIMES — Dozens of tons of tomatoes are rotting in Guantanamo
because nobody is collecting them, according to what journalist Lilibeth
Alfonso tells us on her personal blog. Apparently, there isn't any
diesel for private trucks who could distribute them to the population.

However, fuel shortages haven't affected the supply needed for the
Agriculture Ministry's four-wheel drives or the modern 4×4 Korean cars
that the leaders of the National Association of Small Farmers in Cuba
(ANAP) use, which continue to run on and consume diesel on Havana
streets, traveling from office to office.

Fellow journalist Singh Castillo wrote in that "Tomatoes are rotting in
the Caujeri Valley. This is happening because of the fault of all of
those involved in the matter, starting with farmers, agricultural
cooperatives, the state company, municipal and provincial Agriculture

He also adds that "the yield of this harvest had been underestimated (…)
there weren't enough boxes and transport was insufficient and, the main
thing here, there weren't enough destinations." And he ends by claiming
that "this harvest is the paradigm to follow in the future," as if this
is the first time that this has happened.

Agricultural engineer Fernando Funes has stated that, every year, 50% of
harvests are lost in Cuba because of poor collection systems, a lack of
storage spaces, the inability to process these crops, insufficient
transport systems and an awful distribution system.

An ANAP leader told me that they had fixed the problem of food rotting
when nobody can distribute it. They force farmers to take out an
insurance policy which then pays them for everything they lose. They
turn the mattress over without really solving the problem at the heart
of this situation.

Farm sector bureaucrats aren't worried about losing dozens of tons of
tomatoes, they don't care if the country pays 2 billion USD a year to
import food or that ordinary Cubans have to pay more than what they earn
in order to take food home.

They don't seem to take into account the fact that the agricultural
sector consumes 60% of the water at a time when Cuba is experiencing
full-on drought. How much water is wasted on watering tomatoes which
then rot in the fields of Guantanamo and other crops which are then lost
across the entire island?

The expense of the agrarian bureaucracy's "lack of foresight" doesn't
stop there. Now, when the government is looking for a way to save fuel
in every sector, we should also calculate how much oil was imported to
drive the water used for watering these fields for no reason whatsoever.

They have been giving different excuses for poor harvests for decades.
Generally-speaking, it was the climate, the drought or heavy rains that
were to blame. Now, the harvest has exceeded estimates, and they blame
the good weather and explain that they "underestimated the yield of this

How can you explain the fact that Cuba is never "taken by surprise" by a
hurricane but it is unable to foresee a good harvest? It's simple, Civil
Defense troops don't leave anything to chance, they are always ready to
take on any variables and use all of the resources that might be
necessary, which is why they save lives.

But do we have to alert every farmer that the weather is good, that
there are enough seeds, that pests are under control and that by working
hard, they can end up causing a crisis for our officials? Is there
anything else more ridiculous than talking about overproduction in
Cuba's fields?

The large Cuban Agricultural Ministry building is a kind of living
bureaucratic monument. Photo: Raquel Perez Diaz
You don't have to be Einstein to know that you don't get different
results in agriculture by keeping the same governing institutions, the
same men leading them and by using the same methods which have failed
time and time again for decades.

My colleague Singh Castillo claims that tomatoes being wasted are "the
responsibility of everybody involved." This is a foolproof analysis so
that at the end of a meeting nobody is to blame, just like a song from
the duet Buena Fe says.

In the face of situations like this one, which affects the national and
local economy, you can't divide the blame up between everyone. The old
principle of "collective work and individual responsibility" is the one
which allows the most incompetent leaders to shake off their blame and
focus on everyone else instead.

They can continue to call for meetings to make analyses of the
situation, but this chaos will continue to take place while officials
get away with their inefficiency and don't pay for it by losing their
jobs and the privileges that these give them: air-conditioned offices,
cars, fuel, internet, allowances and trips.

Source: Cuba and Its Rotting Tomatoes - Havana -

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