Cuba seeks trade partners willing to brave US embargo
With the U.S.-imposed embargo creating many challenges for the Cuban government, food production has become a main priority.
The economic embargo imposed by the United States on Cuba makes it hard for farmers to keep up with market demands, forcing the island to rely on imported goods to feed its population.
"We are looking for a partner," Jose Piñero, head of production at state-owned Citricos Cieba, the main fruit producer in Havana, told EFE. "The problem is finding a partner willing to face international law and share production both in the good times and the bad."
Delkis Campos, who is in charge of the company's citric fruits department, said that the US-imposed embargo obstructs the purchase of "fertilizers and the various other chemicals and weed killers" needed to grow Cuba's crops.
Food production is one of the main challenges facing the Cuban government, which every year spends some $2.5 billion on imported food.
Transportation is another serious problem.
The company has a fleet of 13 rundown trucks that seem ready for the junkyard, while its 47 drivers - most of whom are very old - strive to continue providing Havana with fruits and vegetables.
"We try to avoid fruit waste at all costs," Angel Alfredo Mesa, the company's technical director, said. "We have to use all our vehicles on the field because we cannot afford to lose production."
Like his colleagues, Mesa blames the embargo for the company's ills, as it forbids the purchase of US-made equipment and hinders the acquisition of commercial goods and financial services from other countries, which translates to an inability to buy spare parts, among other things.
Citricos Ceiba's team of mechanics and fitters have no other choice than to "make do" with the materials at hand to fix and patch up their vehicles, most of which are more than three decades old.
The company plans to distribute as many as 2,600 tons of food this year, most of which will go to the domestic market, while only 40 tons of avocados and 20 of chili peppers will be marked for exportation.
"The percentage is small," Piñero said. "We want to make it grow to export more produce and counteract the country's money shortage."