Cuba is working to develop the
country’s fruit industry in a sustainable fashion,
to meet domestic demand from the population and
tourist facilities, as well as expand exports. The
government’s strategy includes expanding acreage
devoted to fruit cultivation, regularizing the
delivery of agricultural supplies and developing
know-how in the field.
Market studies and the potential of
leading cooperatives are being
considered in the development of plan to
export fresh fruit.
Figures announced mid-2013 by the
Tropical Fruit Cultivation Research Institute
indicated that the total acreage devoted to non-citrus
fruit cultivation on the island is 88,367 hectares,
with the greatest portion, 30%, devoted to mango
groves. With the inclusion of citrus, the total
reaches 109,367 hectares.
Results are, however, not yet
encouraging. According to the National Statistics
and Data Office, from January through September,
2013, the volume of agricultural production (without
including sugar cane) declined by 2.6%, and among
the products which showed significant declines were
citrus and other fruit, with the exception of guava
In its efforts to rebuild the fruit
industry – at its height some 30 years ago – the
country has as assets an ideal climate, a system of
research facilities, and a broad layer of small
farmers and cooperatives who provide the greatest
percentages of agricultural production in the
special program is underway to rebuild
the citrus industry, recovering from a
devastating Huanglongbing infestation.
Within this broad group of farmers,
gaining momentum is the Movement of Fruit
Cooperatives which has united some 102 agricultural
cooperatives specializing in fruit production across
the country, recognized for their productivity, the
quality of their fruit and the implementation of
best practices, such as the use of bio-fertilizers
According to information provided by
the national fruit company, some 31,000 hectares are
being managed by cooperatives involved in this
movement, with the cultivation of mango
predominating (11,500 ha); followed by avocado
(6,000); guava (4,500); papaya (2,700); pineapple
(2,400); zapote (600) and among other species, 3,300
"The movement has experienced big
changes these last few years and delivery of
supplies and resources has been improving. This has
allowed us to make projections and, next year, we
intend to reach 200 hectares of fruit trees and will
also identify new species," said Luis Gerardo Pérez
Gutiérrez, during an interview with Granma
International. He is president of the Nelson
Fernández Cooperative in the municipality of
Madruga, Mayabeque province.
moving from sugarcane to fruit
Guava and pineapple production in 2013
reached promising levels.
As a result of the reorganization of
the sugar industry in 2002, in an effort to improve
management and productivity, the Nelson Fernández
Cooperative was released from several contracts, and
took up the cultivation of tubers, vegetables, fruit
and other food crops on 62% of the land it had
previously devoted to sugarcane. The cooperative,
one among some 5,200 which exist in the country, was
included in what is called the Álvaro Reynoso Task,
being undertaken by leaders in fruit production.
"Given the distance between our
entity and the sugar mill," Pérez explained, "we
decided we wouldn’t plant any more cane and would
concentrate on varied crops."
"When Decree-Law 259 was implemented
– and later no.300, related to the granting of land
in usufruct – our cooperative grew. We had only 13
caballerías and now we have 67, adding area granted
to 93 individuals in usufruct, which means that our
land increased seven times over."
Currently the Nelson Fernández, a
credit and services cooperative (CCS), devotes more
than 140 hectares to fruit, successfully cultivating
38 to 40 species, with good yields.
"We have considerably increased
citrus fruit, a crop facing big infestation problems
in Cuba. We have already harvested 100 tons of
Persian limes this year," Pérez continued.
Although fruit production is the
cooperative’s principal mission, the Nelson
Fernández CCS also produces significant amounts of
milk, meat, tubers and vegetables. Their corn and
bean harvests are important to reducing imports of
these much-in-demand foods.
"As we have continued clearing land
of marabou and undergrowth, we want to continue
growing, expanding the fruit orchards, which is our
social objective, and install a new type of mini
processing plant during 2014, looking to complete
the production cycle."
"We have achieved this much as a
result of everyone’s efforts. I represent 167 small
farmers, who with their effort and daily work are
responsible for all of our accomplishments."
Although such encouraging examples
exist, the organizational work of the movement is
far from complete. Obstacles which are hampering the
accomplishment of its goals must be overcome, to
recover the country’s fruit growing tradition.
Implementing best practices;
treatment of residual waste from mini processing
plants; contracting cooperatives’ production to meet
demand; and guaranteeing the delivery of supplies
needed to maintain groves and nurseries are all part
of the strategy to be followed, to ensure the stable
development of Cuba’s fruit industry.