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    Cuba to import in 2011 twice the rice it produces
    Published December 13, 2010

    Havana – The Cuban government will have to import in 2011 double the
    amount of rice it produces in order to meet domestic demand, the
    official weekly Trabajadores said Monday, citing the island's deputy
    minister of agriculture.

    "Again in 2011 the country will have to import almost double the rice
    produced here," Juan Perez Lamas said at a meeting with growers,
    according to the publication of Cuba's only legal trade union, the CTC.

    Cuba needs "more people growing rice and selling it though various
    channels, but with discipline," Perez Lamas said.

    For its part, Trabajadores slammed the fact that a lack of resources,
    general disorganization, and apathy toward such options as cutting by
    hand, have caused "regrettable losses" in the rice fields.

    "We're left with the impression that rice production goes at a faster
    pace than the development of a national infrastructure to sustain it,"
    the weekly said.

    In that sense, the publication said that there are problems with
    machinery like tractors, mills and dryers, and a "poorly maintained
    network of canals between reservoirs and plantations" that loses half
    the water meant for crops.

    "Cuba now spends on producing the grain seven times more than Vietnam,"
    Trabajadores said, while stressing the importance of "better planning."

    It also said that in the new context of economic adjustments being
    planned by the Raul Castro government, "it would be healthy to explain
    to the grower just how much the government can promise him."

    "It's absurd and anti-economic that we can't come up with the $250 that
    it costs to produce a ton of rice here when it's needed, but we can find
    the $500 it costs to bring it from Asia," the weekly publication said.

    In 2009, the Agriculture Ministry's Rice Program launched a state plan
    aimed at substituting 29 percent of imports that year and to reach 56
    percent by 2013.

    According to the state corporation Alimport, Cuba spent in 2009 more
    than $2 billion on rice imports to guarantee supplies for the population.

    According to official figures, the 11.2 million Cubans consume an
    average of 11 pounds of rice per month, for an annual consumption of
    more than 600,000 tons.

    State-issued rationing cards guarantee each Cuban citizen 7 pounds of
    rice per month at subsidized prices.

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