The Magazine

Dirt Poor in the Workers' Paradise

Eighty-four percent of Cuba's food is imported.

Mar 23, 2009, Vol. 14, No. 26 • By BLAKE HURST
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A recent article in the Cuban press, noted in a study by the USDA's Office of Global Analysis, quoted a high-level Cuban ministry of agriculture official who revealed that 84 percent of all food consumed in Cuba is imported. CNN reports that Raúl Castro is moving to boost food production by putting more land under the control of private farmers. State-run television claims that half of all agricultural land in Cuba is not farmed or is farmed in an unproductive manner. According to CNN, "A thorny bush called marabu fills many of the unused fields and has become a symbol for the failure of agriculture. Last year, Raúl Castro himself bitterly joked about how much of it he could see along the highway."

So, according to American visitors, the symbols of Cuban agriculture are full markets and happy farmers tilling their urban plots of organic vegetables. According to the Cubans themselves, the symbol is the marabu bush. The U.S. embargo against Cuba has been loosened, and food imports from the United States have been increasing rapidly. If you are going to have a sustainable agricultural paradise, it helps to have a nearby neighbor with a million or so industrial farmers.

Blake Hurst is a farmer and writer in Missouri.