Beans, ah, the beans!

Beans are an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. (DC)

Beans are an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. (DC)

14ymedio, Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, 31 December 2015 – Tiny and tasty, they seem to look at us from the plate and mock the work it takes to get them. Beans are not only a part of our traditional cuisine, they constitute an effective indicator to calculate the cost of living in Cuba. The price increases these delicious little bits have experienced in the past year is proof of the disastrous economic policy promoted by Raul Castro.

When, in February of 2008, the former Minister of the Armed Forces assumed the presidency of the country, many were betting on the pragmatic character of his mandate. His sympathizers never stopped reminding us of the phrase in which he asserted, “Beans are more important than canons.” They predicted that our national agriculture would work like certain farms managed by the Ministry of the Armed Forces and the Youth Labor Army.

Hopes that overlooked José Martí’s accurate maxim, “A nation is not founded like a military camp is commanded.” The behavior of a soldier in the trenches can never be equated with a farmer’s day, and an officer’s command to bend one’s back over the earth has nothing in common with the efforts of a peasant to hire someone to bring in his harvest.

The harangues against the invasive marabou weed, launched by Raul Castro in his first years as president, fueled expectations, as did his call to put a glass of milk on every Cuban’s breakfast table. The Raulistas discerned in those statements the soaring of food production and the bringing down to earth of prices, to be consistent with wages. But neither occurred.

Instead, in recent months consumers have suffered a significant increase in the cost of agricultural products. If the year started with a pound of black beans costing between 12 and 15 Cuban pesos, at the close of December the price varied between 15 and 20 pesos – the wages of an entire working day – reaching the staggering price of 30 pesos in the case of garbanzo beans.

Meanwhile, the average monthly wages in the country only grew from 581 to 640 Cuban pesos (roughly $25 US), a symbolic increase which, expressed in a worker’s purchasing power, equals about three more pounds of beans a month. The results Raul Castro has achieved with his much-vaunted methods are not far removed from the little his brother Fidel Castro achieved with his grandiose agricultural and livestock projects.

The usufruct leasing of land to farmers ran up against the bureaucracy, excessive controls and the poor state of the leased land. El Trigal, the experimental wholesale market, is a sequence of empty stalls, petulant bananas and high prices. In reality, it is easier to find an apple brought from thousands of miles away than an orange or chiromoya planted in our own fields. For the coming year, the country will spend 1.94 billion dollars on food imports, and nobody even talks about the battle against the invasive marabou weed any more.

“I have to earn my beans,” says a teacher, as he justifies dedicating his workday to cooking pork, along with a portion of“Moors and Christians”– as we call black beans and rice – that he sells illegally to the workers at a hospital. Because yes, our lives revolve, rise and fall around those delicious little bits that we long to put on our plates. Expensive and tasty, they are the best indicator of the General’s failure.


18 thoughts on “Beans, ah, the beans!

  1. If you folks that frequent this blog will notice on the indicators, Cuba is almost on a par with other developing countries in internet users in the country ( 30.0 for Cuba and 31.9 for developing countries in the World). In this blog and 14YMEDIO are always criticizing the lack of internet service in Cuba. The reason is their own agenda of allowing Cultural Imperialism from the West, primarily from the United States into Cuba along with other soft power intervention that can help the dissident agenda for regime change. Also, 14YMEDIO as a private business has its own motives to expand its market at the expense of Cuba’s sovereignty and independence. Classical problem with Free Market Societies (Fox News comes to mind with its Right Wing Agenda, The Koch Brothers and their national organization of financial institutions to push the Right Wing Agenda in the United States. Who said that Capitalism cannot exist along side a Communist government)

  2. Additional indicators related to work for Cuba Cuba High HDI Developing countries
    Employment to population ratio (% ages 15 and older) 54.9 63.4 60.7 62.2
    Labour force participation rate (% ages 15 and older) 56.7 67.1 64.3 66.4
    Female 43.4 57.0 49.5 53.7
    Male 70.0 77.2 78.7 79.8
    Share of employment in agriculture (% of total employment) 19.7 28.8 36.9 16.3
    Share of employment in services (% of total employment) 63.2 43.8 39.1 62.1
    Labour force with tertiary education (%) 15.9 — — —
    Vulnerable employment (% of total employment) — 28.7 54.0 31.3
    Total unemployment (% of labour force) 3.2 4.7 5.6 6.2
    Long term unemployment (% of labour force) — — — —
    Youth unemployment (% of youth labour force) 6.1 16.7 14.6 13.7
    Youth not in school or employment (% ages 15-24) — — — —
    Labour productivity: output per worker (2011 PPP $) — 23,766 — 23,243
    Child labour (% ages 5-14 years) — 8.3 14.5 10.8
    Domestic workers (% of total employment)
    Female — — — 14.2
    Male — — — 0.8
    Working poor, PPP $2 per day (% of total employment) 5.9 14.7 33.8 5.6
    Unemployment benefits recipients (% of unemployed ages 15-64) 0.0 6. 0 2.5 5.3
    Mandatory paid maternity leave (days) — 125.0 99.0 92.1
    Old age pension recipients (% of statutory pension age population) — 73.9 51.0 60.8
    Internet users (% of population) 30.0 49.8 31.9 50.0
    Mobile phone subscribers (per 100 people) 22.5 104.6 91.2 114.9

  3. Cuba’s 2014 HDI of 0.769 is above the average of 0.744 for countries in the high human development group and above the average of 0.748 for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. From Latin America and the Caribbean, countries which are close to Cuba in 2014 HDI rank and to some extent in population size are Panama and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), which have HDIs ranked 60 and 71 respectively (seetable B).

  4. Human Development Index (HDI)
    The HDI is a summary measure for assessing long-term progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge and a decent standard of living. A long and healthy life is measured by life expectancy. Knowledge level is measured by mean years of education among the adult population, which is the average number of years of education received in a life-time by people aged 25 years and older; and access to learning and knowledge by expected years of schooling for children of school-entry age, which is the total number of years of schooling a child of school-entry age can expect to receive if prevailing patterns of age-specific enrolment rates stay the same throughout the child’s life. Standard of living is measured by Gross National Income (GNI) per capita expressed in constant 2011 international dollars converted using purchasing power parity (PPP) rates. To ensure as much cross-country comparability as possible, the HDI is based primarily on international data from the United Nations Population Division (the life expectancy data), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Institute for Statistics (the mean years of schooling and expected years of schooling data) and the World Bank (the GNI per capita data). As stated in the introduction, the HDI values and ranks in this year’s report are not comparable to those in past reports (including the 2014 HDR) because of a number of revisions to the component indicators. To allow for assessment of progress in HDIs,
    the 2015 report includes recalculated HDIs from 1990 to 2014 using consistent series of data.
    Cuba’s HDI value and rank Cuba’s HDI value for 2014 is 0.769— which put the country in the high human development category— positioning it at 67 out of 188 countries and territories. Between 1980 and 2014, Cuba’s HDI value increased from 0.627 to 0.769, an increase of 22.6 percent or an average annual increase of about 0.60 percent. The rank is shared with Lebanon.

    Human Development Indicators
    Human Development Index

    Index 0.769
    Rank 67

  6. You have asked the right question, Wayne:
    “Is it because of the embargo that you cannot purchase these farm equipment?”

    Yes, because of the embargo.

    Cuba imports some tractors from the Belarus, but it is not enough.
    There is not enough hard currency in the central bank, because Cuba cannot market and sell its tourist products in the United States. The beach hotels are 50% empty in the low season.

    (if you get support from US-based foundations please ignore this post. You are making more anyway)

    1. Go to Agricultura and say that you need land to cultivate beans. This is an easy step.
    2. Plant one acre of beans (for those familiar with the metric system it is a piece of land 100 x 70 meters)
    3. Work hard – but only about 20 days in a year for this lot. The hard part.
    4. Harvest the crop. You can expect 600 to 1600 pounds from one acre.
    5. Sell the crop for 20 CUP x 1000 pounds = 20 000 CUP

    Don’t like it? Prefer money for blogging CASTRO BAD? Go to hell.


    Cuba’s economy is likely to slow down in 2016, with authorities calling for efficiency and fiscal prudence as the country faces a tough year.

    Earlier this week, Minister of Economy and Planning Marino Murillo told parliament that the Cuban economy would grow by 2 percent in 2016, down from 4 percent in 2015.

    According to his economic report, most of the country’s productive sectors grew in 2015, including the sugar industry (16.9 percent), construction (11.9 percent) and manufacturing (9.9 percent).

    However, despite this encouraging performance in 2015, Murillo stated that expectations for 2016 pointed to a deceleration, leading to a mere 2-percent growth.

    “In 2016, it will be crucial to increase efficiency in our spending and seek to benefit from the global trend of lowering prices,” said Murillo, adding that savings should especially be found in imports and energy.

    He added that while half of imports in 2016 would depend on loans, these should be chosen “rationally” to ensure “sustainable” debt.

    Moreover, he said public investments for 2016 will amount to 7.8 billion US dollars, mostly directed at the tourism, energy, oil and gas, and agricultural sectors.

    Tourism is considered to be crucial to the development of the Cuban economy, having closed 2015 with a record 3.5 million foreign visitors.

    Despite these increases, the Cuban economy grew at an average annual pace of 2.3 percent from 2011-2014, far below government targets of 7 percent.

    In order to avoid such disappointing results in the long term, Murillo called for “Cuba to produce all that it can. It is better to import raw materials and manufacture a product here, than buying a finished product on the international market.”

    Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca said it will also be vital to promote Cuba’s export potential in order to stimulate foreign revenue generation in key sectors.

    In this aspect, the country is still feeling the impact of the US economic blockade. While a thaw in relations has led to the embassies re-opening and to Washington lifting a number of restrictions, the blockade continues to isolate the island from global markets.

    Furthermore, the economic recession suffered by Venezuela, a huge source of financial and commercial support for the island, has left Cuba reeling.

  9. THIS IS THE REASON WHY BEANS ARE EXPENSIVE: LACK OF FUNDS AND DESSERTIFICATION (CLIMATE CHANGE). Cuba only have 23% of all the money required to implement the United Nation accords for a sustainable human civilization. Cuba only has 2,210,000 million USD to invest in food and nutrition security for the island nation….The embargo prevents Cuba access to many sources for funds….
    Los recursos financieros necesarios para la implementación del MANUD (2014-2018) se estiman
    aproximadamente en 151,7 millones de USD, estando disponibles en este momento el 23% de esas necesida
    Cuadro 1 Est imac ión de rec ursos para alcanzar los resultados esperados MANUD
    2014-2018 (USD)

    Efecto 1. Servicios Sociales………………………………..5,650,000
    Efecto 2. Programas Sociales……………………………..9,270,000
    Efecto 3. Sectores productivos y cadenas de valor…860,000
    Efecto 4. Gestión Local……………………………………….1,370,000
    Efecto 5. Energía………………………………………………..270,656
    Efecto 6. Seguridad alimentaria y nutricional…………..2,120,000
    Efecto 7. Sostenibilidad ambiental………………………….14,208,163
    Efecto 8. Gestión de riesgo……………………………………500,000
    To tal MANUD……………………………………………………..34,248,819

    A movi lizar………………………………………………………….117,504,805

    Total que se necesita en Cuba……………………………….151,753,624

  10. Cuba has been called a country without an economy. Even the soldiers in the trenches of WW1 didn’t stay there all the time. They went to rest, eat and wash in camps behind the front line.
    Cuba and North Korea are what they are by design, to keep the people poor and powerless. The empty promises from time to time are part of the process of grinding the people down.
    However, Castrismo is a fragile system in a changing world. They’ll find out that there is such a thing as economy after all. We just don’t know when…

  11. In total, the agricultural industries, agricultural cooperatives, and the UBPCs have reported there are 3,458,742 hectares of uncultivated land, which represents 54% of the total arable land in Cuba reported.
    Additional to the unjustified reduction of land used for growing, the poor performance of agricultural enterprises, and the increasingly critical situation of the UBPCs, agricultural cooperatives and farmers have problems purchasing inputs -despite lowering prices- and have issues with the inputs’ poor quality.
    Difficulties persist to get the crops out of the fields in a timely manner because of a lack of transportation, causing much of the production to be used as food for pigs.
    Despite these difficulties, the production of the first half of the year was mainly produced by the cooperatives and farmers, who produced 88.1% of the country’s tubers and vegetables and 93.4% of the 450,000 tons of fruits collected.
    The cooperatives and farmers, who bear the burden of production, sell at high prices because of the expenses arising in planting, crop care, harvesting the collection and sending their products to the market. Brokers and resellers double and triple prices of the products they sell to the owners of the outlets and retailers. Thus, the population is forced to pay astronomical prices for their food.
    Prices continue to rise and they could decrease if the state farms produced more, but everything indicates that this is currently impossible as they only produced between 6 and 11% of the total reported in the first half of this year.

    Given the impact of initial reforms to the enterprise system, today the Ministry of Agriculture’s economic situation is better than it was in 2010, when over half of affiliated entities incurred losses of almost 1.2 billion pesos, due to ineffective management and low yields.

    The situation began to change three years later, when only 82 unprofitable entities remained and total losses were down to 209,000,000 pesos. The following year saw a dozen institutions leave this negative trend, with only 17% of all entities with losses remaining and a significant reduction in outstanding debts.

    At the end of the first half of this year, the situation is even more encouraging: only 46 entities reported losses, while the agriculture sector saw net earnings of 411,832,000 pesos. These results represent the revival of Cuban agriculture.

  13. Cuba’s agricultural experts may want to talk to this Canadian about this strain of black bean
    New Black Beans Grow Like Grain

    By Lee Hart
    Reprinted with permission from:
    County Guide Special Edition, January, 1995

    Well, not quite. But you can seed and harvest them with conventional cereal equipment.
    That should make this high-value crop an option on more prairie farms.

    Van Roessel has high hopes for straight-combined bean. If the name is any indicator, a new black bean variety bred in Saskatchewan could open the eyes of both irrigated and dryland prairie farmers to the potential of dry bean production.

    Named after a popular high-powered coffee, limited quantities of registered CDC Expresso seed will be available to seed growers in 1995. And from that harvest, Will and Jean Van Roessel of Bow Island, Alberta, CANADA, hope to have seed for commercial bean producers by 1996.

    The Van Roessels hold the rights to Expresso. It’s one of 2 black bean varieties bred at the Crop Development Centre in Saskatoon. The other is marketed by Value Added Seeds, of Lumsden,Saskatchewan, CANADA.

    New varieties like these should help expand bean production on the prairies, especially in Saskatchewan, which produces only about 2,000 of the 68,000 acres of dry beans grown in western Canada.

    Expresso is a bush-type bean which grows erect, in contrast to the ground-hugging tendency of vine-type bean varieties. This characteristic makes it adaptable to current prairie crop production practices and machinery.

    “Farmers should be able to solid-seed Expresso with conventional seeding equipment,” says Will Van Roessel. “And it can be straight-combined, too.”

    CDC Expresso should be widely adaptable across southern Alberta and the dark brown soil zone of Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Like other beans, it requires moisture stress to complete maturity. Although it will do well under irrigation, Van Roessel says it should also have respectable dryland yields.

    In the short- to mid-term, Will sees a strong black bean market. “There are really so few acres now that buyers will take all we can grow,” he says. “If production ever exceeds 50,000 acres, then things could tighten up, but that’s a long way off.”

    To speed seed production, the Van Roessels have contracted 5 acres of registered Expresso seed production in Mexico this winter. That seed will be available to Canadian seed growers in spring. Commercial seed will be available to prairie farmers the following year.

    The Van Roessels crop about 850 acres near Bow Island in partnership with Will’s brother Rob. Along with pedigree seed, they raise cattle and some commercial crops.

    Their crop mix in 1994 included about 340 acres of pinto beans, of which about 65 were for seed. They also produced hybrid canola under contract, the hard red spring wheat CDC Teal, AC Reed soft white spring wheat, Kentucky bluegrass seed and commercial soft wheat.

    Adding bean seed to their line became possible with the construction of a specialty seed-cleaning plant nearby. “Now, we can get seed cleaned in Alberta, which wasn’t possible before,” notes Will.

    The Van Roessels hope to tap into an estimated one million-dollar bean seed market, which until now has been supplied mostly from Idaho and Nebraska.

    They figure they can be competitive, offering local growers good quality seed priced in Canadian rather than U.S. dollars, and packaged in convenient and economical bulk and mini-bulk bag quantities.

  14. You may have heard of similar promises in the US and elsewhere. No more troops into Iraq and I will close Guantanamo. The US will will make your life better since we returned to Havana. Everyone is equal in the eyes of god except Catholic nuns.

  15. Why are people picking crops by hand? Why are you not using farm tractors and cultivators to pick your crops? Is it because of the embargo that you cannot purchase these farm equipment?
    Why are they not planting more crops to lower the prices for people? We here in Canada don’t pick crops by hand, if we did, we would be starving to.

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