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How can Cuba both be an example of how to adapt and an example of failure to adapt? Can you two get your sources out so we can decide this question? Parallel diaries?

When the capital development of a country becomes a by-product of the activities of a casino, the job is likely to be ill-done. — John M. Keynes
by Carrie (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 02:52:52 PM EST
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Post Soviet subsidy Cuba adapted quite well given the constraints it was under, greatly reducing the fossil fuel and industrial fertilizer it used to produce its food. The problem is that even with that adaptation it still had to use some of those, and it remained very heavily dependent on food imports.  
by MarekNYC on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 03:02:10 PM EST
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Here is an overview of the Cuban agriculture story in a form familiar to me from documentaries, first-hand testimony of friends who have done the susti ag tours, etc.  I note the intriguing excerpt:

Despite the embargo, in 2000, President Clinton signed the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSRA), which re-authorized the direct commercial export of food products and agricultural products via cash transactions from the United States to Cuba - but not from Cuba to the United States. [emphasis mine -- DeA]

In September 2002, after the U.S. Food and Agribusiness Exhibition took place in Havana, the Cuban government purchased more than $91.9 million in food and agricultural products from subsidiaries of U.S. companies based in Latin America and Canada and directly from U.S. companies.

Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), one of the world's largest exporters of cereal grains and oilseeds, signed a $19 million contract for soybean oil, soybeans, soy proteins, corn, margarine, and rice. In 2001, ADM's lobbying - combined with wreckage in Cuba after Hurricane Michelle - was the tipping point that persuaded the Bush Administration to allow the first sale of goods directly from the United States to Cuba since 1962.

The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA), which, to date, has not taken up trade negotiations with Cuba, would be interested in trade sometime in the future, said its chief executive officer.

"We should be exporting to any nation that needs food," said CEO Larry Mitchell.

With Cuba's well-documented ability to feed itself, why would the Cuban government be interested in spending $91.9 million on food imports?

John S. Kavulich II, president of the U.S. Trade and Economic Council based in New York City, said, "There is a strong political component to the Cubans' decision to purchase food products from us. Of the products purchased since 2001, nearly all of them are available from other sources at better prices."

Kavulich cited rice as an example. The Cubans could buy rice from Vietnam at a significantly lower price, but they choose to purchase from purveyors like ADM instead.

Food First's Rosset agrees. "I believe the Cubans are buying from the U.S. as a political gesture. They hope the food corporations will lobby the U.S. government on their behalf to lift the embargo."

Whether the Cubans bought food from american agricorps as a tit-for-tat deal in an attempt to get the travel and financial embargo lifted, or whether they faced any actual shortage of staple crops, I dunno.  I do know that for many USians of conservative persuasion, Castro is the Great Satan and Cuba is anathema:  nothing that Cuba does can be working.  As the last "actually existing socialism" on earth, it must be publicly proclaimed and proven a contemptible failure so that happy capitalists can dance on Marx's grave.  Op/eds appear regularly in US papers celebrating Castro's great age and infirmity and confidently predicting that "freedom" (meaning US domination) will come to Cuba just as soon as the old tyrant is dead.  

Recently a US op/ed joyfully announced that Raul Castro is likely to relax restrictions on private car ownership and permit real estate speculation -- hey, that sounds like democracy and freedom to me :-)  more like the stupidest possible moves to make at this particular historical moment, but -- as Chekov's protagonist muses at the end of "Three Years" -- we will live and we will see.

The difference between theory and practise in practise ...

by DeAnander (de_at_daclarke_dot_org) on Tue May 27th, 2008 at 10:10:19 PM EST
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With Cuba's well-documented ability to feed itself, why would the Cuban government be interested in spending $91.9 million on food imports?

That statement makes me rather skeptical of the report. Cuba has a well documented inability to feed itself.

Food import dependency dropped drastically in the nineties from about sixty percent to forty percent - that's not what I'd call self-sufficient. Part of that reduction came courtesy of the reforms you rightly praise, but part because of a reduction in food intake to the point of mass malnutrition (though there again, Cuba's well organized and equitable food distribution system prevented the mass starvation that would have ensued in a third world country which relied on the market to enforce demand destruction).

If you feel at looking at some of the stats see this article (written by an anti-Castro academic, but the stats come from the FAO) or wander through the FAO data yourself over here Their latest data (2003) shows that Cuba's domestic production accounted for a little under half of its population's grain consumption (by far the single largest source of calories), one seventh of its edible oil consumption, and about sixty percent of its meat and dairy consumption. The areas where it was self sufficient were roots and tubers and sweeteners.

Cuba's a great example for the argument that we can make sharp reductions in the fossil fuel inputs in agriculture. It's also a great example for how the complete elimination of fossil fuels without some sort of substitute would spell disaster.

by MarekNYC on Wed May 28th, 2008 at 02:09:02 PM EST
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