The Cuban government has implemented a series of agricultural transformations since 2007 to increase the country’s agricultural self-sufficiency and reduce its dependence on food imports. These include the transfer in usufruct, i.e. use rights only, of State-owned land to non-State producers (i.e. cooperatives and private farmers), moderate price reforms, the decentralization of decision making, and the gradual relaxation of existing forms of agricultural commercialization. As a result of these measures, the area planted, as well as physical output and agricultural yields (in selected non-sugar crop categories) have shown mixed results, and still remain below desired levels. There are three fundamental unresolved issues that have prevented Cuba’s agricultural sector from achieving desired levels: (1) the need to achieve the “realization of property”; (2) recognition and acceptance of the market as a complementary economy in coordination with a planning mechanism; and (3) absence of a systemic focus to achieve the successful completion of the agricultural production cycle (i.e. the value chain). These unresolved issues should be addressed through: (1) consolidating markets for inputs, where producers can obtain essential inputs at prices that correspond to the prices they can obtain for their output; (2) granting greater autonomy to agricultural producers to allow them to decide when, where, and to whom they can sell their output, after social contracts have been fulfilled; (3) diversifying types of agricultural commercialization to permit greater participation by non-State economic actors; (4) allowing agricultural producers to freely hire the labor necessary to sustain and increase production; and (5) providing agricultural producers with needed financing and technical assistance. Please refer to Supplementary Materials, Full text Spanish version of this article, for a full text Spanish version of this article.

Agriculture is strategically important to the Cuban economy because of its spillover effect on other economic sectors. The Cuban agricultural sector provides approximately 35 to 40 percent of calories and 35 to 37 percent of total daily protein consumed by the Cuban population (Nova, 2006), and it directly employs close to one-fifth of the economically active population (ONEI, 2017). An estimated four million Cubans depend directly on agricultural activity to maintain their households (Nova, 2008).

Beef production tends to be unstable, with periods of growth and decline. Production is not meeting demand. Some USD $7–10 million in beef is imported annually. (ONEI, 2017a). Poultry production has remained on a downward trend, in general, with a slight increase in 2014. Some USD$200 million in poultry is imported annually, with $145 million of that imported from the United States. (ONEI, 2017a). Lamb and mutton production are experiencing more dynamic growth, but it has a small impact, representing only 3 percent of all meat produced in the country (ONEI, 2016). ### Milk and eggs Milk production saw accelerated growth between 2008 and 2010, mostly due to a new milk price policy. Production then dropped in 2011, remained more or less stable from 2012 to 2014, dropped in 2015, recovered in 2016, and dropped again in 2017. Production is not meeting demand. Cuba spends close to USD$200 million annually on dairy product imports (ONEI, 2017a).

Egg production saw a decrease from 2008 to 2010 and slight growth in 2011. It dropped in 2012, grew slightly in 2013, dropped in 2014 and crashed in 2015. Generally, it has been unstable, which is reflected in domestic market prices.

### Food imports

The Cuban economy has seen a growing tendency in food imports over the last 10 years (see Tables 3 and 4). With respect to the availability of a select and representative group of foods, imports have accounted for approximately 69 percent.11 This dependence on imports with respect to availability could probably be reduced by 35–40 percent, on the basis of growing national production, under conditions of competitiveness.12

Table 4

Imports of selected foods, Cuba (2007–2013). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.323.t4

In tons2007200820092010201120122013Total 2007–13

Animal Origin

Beef (boned) 4,066 4,847 5,261 4,963 1,641 746 1,089 22,613
Pork (canal) 8,500 7,850 8,848 10,256 4,805 4,195 4,984 49,439
Poultry (slaughtered) 156,786 143,537 160,280 143,621 150,358 154,982 179,330 1,088,894
Powdered milk 50,913 52,113 51,040 37,924 45,535 42,155 42,979 322,659
Butter 1,941 1,444 2,106 2,348 1,460 1,399 1,578 12,276
Fish 32,023 39,027 24,956 12,447 9,295 7,292 9,013 134,053
Vegetable origin

Rice (consumption) 586,644 567,284 511,642 413,910 505,153 359,785 335,295 3,279,713
Beans 236,106 24,617 113,627 71,398 114,524 74,220 105,516 740,008
Corn 708,389 716,984 682,526 785,856 712,800 707,712 769,144 5,083,411
Soy 151,806 132,452 120,311 102,922 132,088 130,348 132,022 901,949
Wheat (grain) 565,488 660,653 671,629 777,961 805,975 750,007 778,471 5,010,184
Wheat flour 165,105 141,288 82,172 52,912 11,411 18 452,912
Vegetable oils

Crude 17,016 37,737 23,428 26,708 9,965 23,887 14,186 152,927
Refined soy 40,143 48,228 48,437 66,676 61,160 53,891 53,369 371,904
Refined sunflower 7,543 109 446 3,437 309 1,820 718 14,382
In tons2007200820092010201120122013Total 2007–13

Animal Origin

Beef (boned) 4,066 4,847 5,261 4,963 1,641 746 1,089 22,613
Pork (canal) 8,500 7,850 8,848 10,256 4,805 4,195 4,984 49,439
Poultry (slaughtered) 156,786 143,537 160,280 143,621 150,358 154,982 179,330 1,088,894
Powdered milk 50,913 52,113 51,040 37,924 45,535 42,155 42,979 322,659
Butter 1,941 1,444 2,106 2,348 1,460 1,399 1,578 12,276
Fish 32,023 39,027 24,956 12,447 9,295 7,292 9,013 134,053
Vegetable origin

Rice (consumption) 586,644 567,284 511,642 413,910 505,153 359,785 335,295 3,279,713
Beans 236,106 24,617 113,627 71,398 114,524 74,220 105,516 740,008
Corn 708,389 716,984 682,526 785,856 712,800 707,712 769,144 5,083,411
Soy 151,806 132,452 120,311 102,922 132,088 130,348 132,022 901,949
Wheat (grain) 565,488 660,653 671,629 777,961 805,975 750,007 778,471 5,010,184
Wheat flour 165,105 141,288 82,172 52,912 11,411 18 452,912
Vegetable oils

Crude 17,016 37,737 23,428 26,708 9,965 23,887 14,186 152,927
Refined soy 40,143 48,228 48,437 66,676 61,160 53,891 53,369 371,904
Refined sunflower 7,543 109 446 3,437 309 1,820 718 14,382

Source: ONEI (2007–2013), Cuba Statistical Yearbook (Anuario Estadístico de Cuba).

The agricultural trade balance shows a deficit that has sometimes surpassed USD $2 billion (see Table 5). From 2014 to 2016, Cuba imported about$2 billion annually in food (ONEI, 2017a).

Table 5

Agricultural trade balance, Cuba 2008–2013. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.323.t5

In USD millions200820092010201120122013

Importation of food and raw materials 2544 1755 1700 1863 1927 1848
Importation of other agricultural inputs for agro-industrial production 800 1200 700 650 620 600
Exports 559 499 541 687 790 804
Balance –2785 –2456 –1858 –1826 –1757 –1644
In USD millions200820092010201120122013

Importation of food and raw materials 2544 1755 1700 1863 1927 1848
Importation of other agricultural inputs for agro-industrial production 800 1200 700 650 620 600
Exports 559 499 541 687 790 804
Balance –2785 –2456 –1858 –1826 –1757 –1644

Source: ONEI (2008–2013), Cuba Statistical Yearbook and ONEI Economic and Social Panorama (2014).

### Impact on retail prices of agricultural products in Non-Agricultural Cooperative Markets and Leased Markets

After Decree-law 305 (2012) and Decree 309 (2012) for non-agricultural cooperatives went into effect in July 2013, followed by Decree-law 318 (2013), a series of results was registered in the area of agricultural product sales that deserve to be analyzed and evaluated.

Given the absence of published official statistics on sales and retail prices for agricultural products, information has been taken directly from price behavior at certain markets (state, cooperative and leased) in Havana. The data contained in Table 6 below was collected from direct observation at the specified markets during 2013–14. The selection is not part of a scientifically-based sample, and the results cannot be extrapolated to the rest of the country. Also, the differences in time when the prices were noted may introduce distortions in the analysis.

Table 6

Comparison of prices between State Agricultural Markets (MAE) and cooperative and leased markets in Havana 2013–2014. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1525/elementa.323.t6

MAE (01/2013)Coop. “Merca” (08/2013)Coop. “33 y 30” (01/2014)Coop. “Mariposa” (08/2013)Leased market 19 y 48* (08/2013)Leased market 19 y 34** (01/2014)

All prices in Cuban pesos (CUP)

Taro root (lb.) 3.00 5.00 5.00 3.50 3.30 3.00
Cassava (lb.) 2.00 3.00 2.00 1.50 1.50 1.50
Sweet potato (lb.) 0.80 2.00 2.00 1.50 1.50 1.50
Yellow squash (lb.) 2.50 3.00 2.50 2.00 1.50 1.50
“Burro” plantain (lb.) 1.00 2.00 2.00 – 1.50 1.50
Plantain (lb.) 3.00 3.50  – 4.50 3.50
Tomato (lb.) 1.25 15.00 7.00 5.00 5.00 5.00
Cucumber (lb.) 4.50 6.00  4.00
Carrot (bunch) 4.00 4.00 10.00 – –
Eggplant (unit) 5.00 1.00  –
Garlic (head) 4.00 4.00 2.50 2.50
Papaya (lb.) 3.00 3.50  3.50 3.00
Pineapple(unit) 12.00 10.00 12.00 – 7.00 8.00
Black beans (lb.) 10.00 12.00 12.00 12.00 12.00 10.50
Red beans (lb.) 12.00 15.00  14.00 13.00 12.00
White beans (lb.) 13.00 15.00 15.00 –
Pork
steak (lb.) 35.00 40.00  40.00 40.00 40.00
Leg (lb.) 25.00 30.00  30.00 30.00 28.00
Loin (lb.) 25.00 30.00  30.00 30.00 28.00
Rib (lb.) 20.00 25.00  25.00 25.00 25.00
MAE (01/2013)Coop. “Merca” (08/2013)Coop. “33 y 30” (01/2014)Coop. “Mariposa” (08/2013)Leased market 19 y 48* (08/2013)Leased market 19 y 34** (01/2014)

All prices in Cuban pesos (CUP)

Taro root (lb.) 3.00 5.00 5.00 3.50 3.30 3.00
Cassava (lb.) 2.00 3.00 2.00 1.50 1.50 1.50
Sweet potato (lb.) 0.80 2.00 2.00 1.50 1.50 1.50
Yellow squash (lb.) 2.50 3.00 2.50 2.00 1.50 1.50
“Burro” plantain (lb.) 1.00 2.00 2.00 – 1.50 1.50
Plantain (lb.) 3.00 3.50  – 4.50 3.50
Tomato (lb.) 1.25 15.00 7.00 5.00 5.00 5.00
Cucumber (lb.) 4.50 6.00  4.00
Carrot (bunch) 4.00 4.00 10.00 – –
Eggplant (unit) 5.00 1.00  –
Garlic (head) 4.00 4.00 2.50 2.50
Papaya (lb.) 3.00 3.50  3.50 3.00
Pineapple(unit) 12.00 10.00 12.00 – 7.00 8.00
Black beans (lb.) 10.00 12.00 12.00 12.00 12.00 10.50
Red beans (lb.) 12.00 15.00  14.00 13.00 12.00
White beans (lb.) 13.00 15.00 15.00 –
Pork
steak (lb.) 35.00 40.00  40.00 40.00 40.00
Leg (lb.) 25.00 30.00  30.00 30.00 28.00
Loin (lb.) 25.00 30.00  30.00 30.00 28.00
Rib (lb.) 20.00 25.00  25.00 25.00 25.00

Source: Elaborated by the author, ANG, based on direct observation at the specified markets in 2013 and 2014.

* Market leased by the Frank País CCS from Güira de Melena, located at the corner of 19 and 48 streets, Playa, Havana.

** Market leased by the Waldo Díaz Fuentes CPA from Güira de Melena, located at the corner of 19 and 34 streets, Playa, Havana.

Nevertheless, the price dynamic seen in Table 6 provides important signs about the impact of the creation of cooperative and leased markets. In the selected markets that were converted into cooperatives and leased markets, prices have been noted to increase 15–16 percent and 17–25 percent, respectively, for at least 18 selected basic products. Some products do not reflect major differences, such as rice, yellow peas, green beans, corn, and others, which were not included in the table due to lack of space. However, independently of ranges and variability, higher prices for agricultural products have been seen in both types of markets, compared to prices at the State Agricultural Markets (MAEs).

One element that has contributed to the difference in prices between state markets and cooperative and leased markets is that until June 30, 2013, the state agricultural collection and distribution enterprise (Acopio) that supplies the MAE markets also covered all transportation, fuel, maintenance and complete operational costs of transporting products to different MAE markets. Likewise, maintenance, electricity, telephone, local and wage costs were covered by the state enterprise. To a certain extent, those costs comprised a sort of subsidy provided by the State.

The cooperative and leased markets covered the costs involved in buying, transportation, and the maintenance and operation of different markets. This meant that a large part of the costs incurred were passed on to retail prices for agricultural products (a tax effect imposed on the economy), leading to price hikes.

In summary, the registered performance of agricultural production over the period analyzed and its consequences for food imports, trade balance, and higher prices for agricultural products confirm that the agricultural sector’s productive forces have not been unblocked, even though a number of measures have been taken precisely for that purpose. Therefore, new and far-reaching measures need to be adopted with a systemic approach, with a view to immediately, dynamically, and quickly reactivating those productive forces.

### New Agricultural Model and its Consolidation. Implementation of a Totally New Economic Management Model

Consolidating an agricultural model foreseen by the government, based on what is laid out in “Los Lineamientos” and in the spirit of what has been implemented to date, requires a totally new model of economic management to be carried out (Nova, 2014). Such a model must achieve the solution of at least three unresolved aspects. The first is the realization of property, meaning that the producer has the right to decide what to produce, whom to sell to, and at what price, and to be able to resort to a market of inputs, means of production, and services to acquire whatever is needed at an opportune time and at prices that correspond to the earnings received from the sale of the final product. This would allow for the production cycle to close successfully. While steps have been taken in this direction, they are still insufficient. The prevailing economic management model used in the production-distribution-exchange-consumption cycle does not achieve realization of property. The second would be the recognition of the market’s real and objective existence, and the possibilities it provides in a complementary way with planning. Lastly would be the application of a systemic approach to the entire production-distribution-exchange-consumption cycle, the cost-system of prices, and the necessary interrelationship between macro and microeconomics.

For this economic management model, it is believed that changes are needed in the environment, and for that, a series of measures must be implemented, such as consolidating a market of inputs, services, and means of production. A second important measure would be to give agricultural producers more autonomy in decision making. A third step would be to diversify forms of sale, as an alternative to monopolies and/or oligopolies. This could be done through a) creating and organizing second-level sales cooperatives,13 b) expand retail sales sites, and c) diversifying actors charged with sales, such as sales cooperatives, individual producers, and the Acopio state enterprise.14 Decree 318 is a move in that direction.

A fourth measure would be to allow producers to freely hire the labor force that they need. And finally, producers who are starting out in agriculture could be offered adequate and necessary financing and periodic technical assistance. Additionally, the new model should take into account environmental factors, to achieve sustainable development in harmony with the environment, by applying agro-environmental techniques and procedures.

All of these measures will make it possible to have the realization of property, where the producer feels like the owner of his or her decisions and results. It will also make it possible to use the market as a tool to achieve better distribution and to seek efficiency, ensuring that it is adequate. All of this would help bring about a successful close to the production cycle with a systemic approach, and its integration into the macro and micro economy. In a scenario such as this, major increases in food production could be expected.

The Cuban agricultural sector also needs a major recapitalization process, and that requires both domestic and foreign investment, where the latter would function as a stimulating and significant element, and where cooperatives would play a direct and active role. At the same time, the agricultural sector needs the dissemination and application of scientific-technical and innovative results (attained and to be attained) through novel and participatory methods at the grassroots and territorial levels. That would play a big part in achieving growing and sustainable results, under conditions of competitiveness and economic efficiency.

In agriculture, the administrative methods traditionally used have been top-down and rigid. Because of its high degree of centralization, this sector has a heavy bureaucratic apparatus in the administration and management of agriculture. Even though it is a sector where high-impact structural transformations are being made, a new management culture is required for making the changes needed by the Cuban economy and especially in the agricultural sector.

The agricultural model promoted by the government calls for the development of horizontal relations and economic collaboration among local producers, to better address municipal and/or regional problems. The creation of producer associations could be one way of carrying this out, as a way of promoting inter-cooperation among local production entities (CCS, CPA, UBPC, small farms and new landholders with usufruct rights). New forms of inter-cooperation are needed that can function independently of the Ministry of Agriculture’s top-down system of relations. Local or regional producers’ associations would have common interests, with one representative from each related entity, and with a president and secretary elected by majority vote, with periodic rotation.

As part of updating Cuba’s economic and social model, the government is pushing forward the decentralization of local and regional spaces.15 The key objective is to separate the government’s state functions from business functions, and thus more efficiently provide goods and public services (Mulet Concepción, 2015). This context gives diverse agricultural production entities in the municipalities a chance to expand their functions and participate more directly in the social environment where they operate. A proposal for producers’ associations and/or other initiatives that would promote horizontal relations of economic collaboration could be an important step in the process of separating state management from strictly business management.

A new economic management model for the agricultural sector requires the training of business people/entrepreneurs, with the goal of increasing the efficiency and competitiveness of producers and decision makers. What is immediately needed is a training program focused on entrepreneurship, based on a systemic approach for the individual to be trained, and embracing the necessary interrelationship with scientific/technical system and innovation.

This new economic management model should combine business interests with consumer or client interests as well as social interests.16 It should also achieve the necessary complementary relationship between planning and the market within the national economy. This new model should also take into account that any type of economic management, especially agricultural, involves risk. In agriculture, risk is an important variable; it is not situational, and it affects results in agronomic, economic, and financial terms.

In summary, measures implemented since 2007 have not made this new model of management viable. Perhaps the clearest manifestation of this model’s limitations is its insufficient production results, which show that the agricultural sector’s productive forces remain blocked.

Production results obtained by Cuba’s agricultural sector in the period analyzed are not in line with the results expected from the government’s policy changes. While growth has been reported for some areas of production, it has been insufficient, and those products are used to replace imports, without helping to increase food availability or reduce retail prices. Research on the end-use of food production would shed light on its structure and dynamics.

The absence of a systemic approach to government policies implemented is considered the main reason that increased production (of some products) has not resulted in greater supply. Those measures (i.e. policies) have primarily addressed specific problems, such liberalizing sales (the final link in the value chain), through Decree 318 (2013). However, essential elements of production remain to be similarly decentralized; for example, a wholesale market is needed for inputs, equipment and services.

While higher state prices for agricultural products benefit producers and are important for stimulating production, they should be complemented with other measures that will have an impact on the rest of the value chain.

The policy of fixing prices, which greatly affects both input sales and state payments to agricultural producers, fails to take into account a number of essential variables, such as demand (the market), the seasonal nature of certain products, territorial differences, and the value chain. The distortions produced by fixed prices can lead to unexpected results, such as encouraging the existence of a black market.

A new model of economic management should achieve the realization of property, recognize the existence of the market, and apply a systemic approach to the whole production-distribution-exchange-consumption cycle, the costs-system of prices, and the necessary interrelationship of macro and micro economics. At the same time, changes to the environment are needed, as is the implementation of a series of measures that would facilitate a successful close to the production cycle. Moreover, business people/entrepreneurs and decision makers need vigorous, dynamic and practical training that will allow them to develop a new model of economic management.

Science, technology and innovation should play a significant role in achieving rapid, sustained, economically efficient results that are in harmony with the environment.

Cooperativism is the form of management that the government most encourages for the agricultural sector. However, centralized procedures continue to impede the full development of its potentialities. It is worth noting that cooperatives encompass economic and social content;17 however, if they do not produce satisfactory economic results, they will be completely unable to sustain the social benefits they bring. The more wealth is distributed, the fewer inequalities will exist, and a road can be opened to a more just agricultural and socioeconomic model (Nova, 2011).

Cuban agriculture has great potential for producing organic and/or agro-ecological products, which have been developed since the 1990s. However, because of limited supply, demand continues to be unmet, and this has prevented the emergence of a domestic market for organic and/or agro-ecological production. Even so, the export of organic products may be an important way for obtaining hard-currency income and openings to new international markets.

The Cuban economy needs to solve its agricultural and food problem. Achieving socioeconomic, growing, and sustainable development in Cuba depends to a great extent on solving Cuba’s agrarian problem.

Between 2011 and 2016 Cuba earned more than \$150 million USD through exports of agricultural products, not including sugar or sugar cane derivatives (ONEI, 2017a).

The “Lineamientos de la Política Económica y Social del Partido y la Revolución” (“Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution”) is a document that lays out a set of measures to be implemented, as guidelines to follow, for updating Cuba’s social and economic model. The first of these documents was passed by the 6th Congress of the Communist Party in April 2011. A revised version was passed by the 7th Congress in 2016.

There are also joint enterprises of national and foreign capital. They are principally service providers, with less participation in the agricultural business system.

Calculated by the first author based on official reports of the ONEI and MINAG in 2015.

Calculated by the first author based on official reports of the ONEI and MINAG in 2015.

Information provided by Ministry of Agriculture officials on the Nov. 1, 2012 episode of the television program “Mesa Redonda”: “Decree-law 300, in Search of Land Productivity.” Accessible at: http://mesaredonda.cubadebate.cu/mesa-redonda/2012/11/01/decreto-ley-300-en-busca-de-la-productividad-de-la-tierra/ (12/07/2018).

A commission comprising representatives of different government ministries to oversee and coordinate implementation of “Los Lineamientos.”

The markets administered by the Youth Army of Labor (Ejército Juvenil del Trabajo, EJT) are not included in the current experiment, but they will continue operating under their current management model.

The main function that characterizes or identifies the productive entity.

For more information about the Huanglongbing disease and its effects on Cuba, see López-Hernández et al (2014) and Luis et al (2009).

Estimate calculated by author ANG, using the figures from Tables 4 and 5.

These percentages are estimates calculated by author ANG, using figures from Tables 4 and 5.

Several producer coops agree to create a second-level cooperative to sell their products. Producer coops could consider the rest of the chain of production as well. Other second-level coops could include: coops for fresh produce, industrial transformation (i.e. processing), technical services, training services, planting, harvesting, and transportation. The values achieved in the process of circulation are mainly used to provide incentives for producers.

A state-run wholesale commercialization enterprise that buys products from producers (state and non-state) and distributes them to retail markets, hospitals, and workers’ and students’ dining halls.

As of 2012, through Decree 301, an experiment has been carried out with a new type of government structure in the provinces of Mayabeque and Artemisa. For a more in-depth explanation of this process, see: Mulet Concepción (2015).

These include what is needed by the general population, communities, schools, childcare centers, hospitals, workers’ and students’ dining halls, and others.

They combine material, moral and social incentives for increasing production and productivity. They help develop values. They lead to the realization of property (a greater sense of belonging, motivation, and a capacity for decision making). They distribute profits (after deducting expenses and the investment fund) according to the production results of each coop member, and create collective funds for social and family improvement within the cooperative. They have a greater commitment to the community in their territory. They tend to fail less than other economic-productive types of businesses. They are more transparent.

Elementa would like to thank Natalia Fernandez, Ana Rose Berbeo, and Margarita Fernandez for translation from Spanish to English.

The authors have no competing interests to declare.

• Concept and Design: ANG

• Acquisition of data: ANG and GFA

• Analysis and interpretation of data: ANG, GFA

• Drafted and revised the article: ANG, GFA

• Approval of submitted version for publication: ANG

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