For the second consecutive year, a persistent drought partially stopped the plans to increase rice production in Cuba, despite which agriculture continues the investment programme begun seven years ago. The aim of reducing foreign dependence for the Cuban diet’s basic foodstuff’s consumption continues among the government’s priorities.
According to Agriculture Ministry (MINAG) reports, farmers again did not meet the annual plan. The director of that ministry’s Agricultural Group’s Rice Section, Lázaro Díaz Rodríguez, reported that in 2016 the producers did not achieve the planned 538,000 tons of rice fit for consumption.
The year closes with some 400,000 tons of that cereal, Díaz advanced in the year’s national ceremony for the 2016-2017 rice harvest, held in late November in the Sur del Jíbaro Agribusiness Grain Enterprise, located in the central province of Sancti Spíritus.
The Sur del Jíbaro enterprise is the country’s leader in the cereal’s yields and harvest. This year it contributed half of the national production, some 200,000 tons, and for the next year it plans to reach 253,000 tons.
Díaz cited as the principal cause for not meeting the national plan the intense drought that for years has been affecting the rice-growing territories.
Despite the climate’s punishment, the year’s production represents 66 per cent of the national consumption, estimated at 700,000 tons of milled rice. This data entails a success compared to the panorama from five years ago.
In 2011 Cuba produced less than 270,000 tons of rice fit for consumption. Therefore it imported more than 60 per cent of the rice it consumed: an amount of more than 400,000 tons, similar to the one currently produced.
The rice harvests have gradually increased since five years ago due to an investment programme that the government has defined as a priority. With the explicit aim of decreasing spending in hard currency for the general import of food products, the country has made strong investments, especially for rice.
During these years, MINAG has equipped the principal enterprises producing the cereal with harvesters, tractors and other implements. It has also carried out a programme to clean and condition hundreds of kilometres of the canal systems of the rice-producing enterprises in order to make a more efficient use of the most yearned for resource: water.
The director MINAG’s Agricultural Group’s Rice Section commented that the programme at a cost of millions of dollars has allowed for gradually improving the industry for the drying, processing, milling and storage of the grain.
Another of the country’s major producers, the Los Palacios Agribusiness Grain Enterprise, in Pinar del Río, this year started up in Mantua, in the western tip of that province, a modern drying plant, capable of processing 37 tons a day.
This cereal is one of the items having the most weight in Cuba’s spending for the import of food, which amounts to more than two billion dollars. Moreover, it is one of the most demanded and appreciated foodstuffs on Cuban tables. The average consumption of 70 kilogrammes per person a year in Cuba is one the highest in the world. (2016)
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