Page images

rented their land, usually on a cash basis, but this accounted for less than 40 percent of the total acreage and less than 30 percent of the cropland.

TABLE 4.-Method of operation of farms in Cuba, 1930

[blocks in formation]

1 Largely absentee ownership, with operation by managers and hired labor. Includes sugar mills and some cattle ranches.

Censo de Población, 1931-Estadísticas Industrial y Agrícola de Cuba.

There were roughly 16 million acres of land in farms in 1940. Of this acreage the sugar companies alone owned about 5.6 million acres and in addition rented about 2 million acres more from other owners, thus controlling about 47 percent of the total acreage in farms. However, by far the most of the sugarcane-even that grown on the millowned lands-is actually produced by colonos who rent the land from the mills. A considerable number of the large farms operated directly by the owners or hired managers are cattle ranches in east-central Cuba. Although these are generally on poorer land and operated extensively, their total acreage is estimated to be nearly as great as that owned by the sugar companies.


Land values in Cuba are relatively low. The value of most agricultural land is estimated at between $10 and $25 an acre. Poorer grazing land, of course, may be purchased for considerably less than $10 an acre. According to the 1930 census, the average value of land alone was $24.35 an acre.

Cuban farmers have very little in the way of farm buildings or equipment. Because of the warm, even temperature there is little need for heavily constructed houses or farm buildings to protect occupants against cold weather, as there is in most of the United States. Houses are only one story high, commonly constructed of very light material, with thatched roofs of palm leaves and frequently palm-leaf sheaths for siding. The few livestock on most farms do not require housing, and consequently the buildings are small and used largely for storage. According to the 1930 census, the average value of buildings on farms was about $3.35 per acre of farm land, accounting for little more than 10 percent of the total real-estate valuation.

The equipment on most small farms consists of a two-wheeled oxcart, a plow, a harrow, hoes, an axe, and a machete. Practically all the draft work is done by oxen (fig. 7). Although there are numerous moldboard and disk plows, the usual type is the old pointed plow without moldboard, which simply loosens the soil and does not turn it


With this type of plow it is necessary to replow the field crosswise several times and then harrow it. Planting is customarily done by hand; cultivation consists principally of hoeing; and harvesting of practically all crops is done by hand. Only a few large farms have tractors and such larger equipment as seeders, grain drills, binders, threshers, and trucks. The two-wheeled oxcart is the standard means of hauling, except where colonos have access to the use of the field railways belonging to sugar centrals. Small farmers in outlying areas, especially in the mountains, rely largely on horseback and muleback transportation. The absence of solid roads to most farms prevents extensive use of wagons, trucks, and automobiles. The average value

[graphic][merged small]

of farm equipment, according to the 1930 census, was about 80 cents per acre, or from $25 to $200 per farm.


The marketing of the principal agricultural products is described in further detail under the discussion of each crop. Sugarcane is sold directly under contract to the mills. Some other crops, such as tobacco, peanuts, and export vegetables, are purchased directly from the farmers by dealers or shippers, sometimes under contract. Other crops are customarily sold in the nearest village to the local general storekeeper (bodeguero), who acts as a middleman in almost all economic relations between the farmer and the outside world. The storekeeper not only buys the farmer's products and resells them to larger dealers, but also supplies the farmer with groceries, clothing, equipment, etc., largely on credit. Most farmers have very little cash and therefore are strictly limited as to the amount as well as the place of their purchases.

There is no Government system of farm credit in Cuba. Commercial banks, through sugar mills, provide credit for the production of

sugarcane not only to the large producers but also to some of the small farmers. With respect to other crops, reference is made to the report of a study in 1934 (12) to the effect that agricultural crops for market are generally financed by commercial agents of industrial companies and by local stores or merchants, shackling the producer in such a way that he finds himself compelled to buy and sell to them at prices that are more or less unfavorable to him in direct proportion to his indigency. The nominal rate of interest may not be very high, but the actual charge, or the real interest, is extremely burdensome. The lack of sufficient production credit and the limited market outlet frequently prevent farmers from growing certain crops that would otherwise be profitable.

The marketing of farm products and the purchase of farm supplies have never been developed on a cooperative basis in Cuba. Among the principal reasons for this may be the poorly developed communication and transportation in rural areas, the dependence of the small farms upon credit from the local storekeeper, and the low standard of education in the rural areas. Nevertheless, there are several outstanding examples of successful cooperative enterprises in Cuba; notably the Güines Cooperative Irrigation Society, founded in 1876; a cooperative fire-insurance company in operation about 80 years; and, most important of all, the long-established Spanish regional societies, or Centros. There are 106 of these mutual-benefit associations in Cuba, having an estimated membership of about 400,000. Although one-half of the associations and most the of membership are in Habana, others extend throughout the island. They constitute one of the world's finest examples of cooperative medicine, but they also engage in educational, social, recreational, insurance, and other activities.12


Cuban agriculture is based primarily on the production of crops rather than livestock. The most important crops produced in Cuba for export, in the order of their export value, are sugar, sugar byproducts, tobacco, tropical fruit (largely bananas), winter vegetables, henequen, and coffee.


The production of sugar and its byproducts is Cuba's dominant industry. Since the World War sugar and byproducts have accounted for more than 80 percent of the value of all exports and during 1936-40 they were valued at about 121 million dollars annually. In 1939, sugarcane occupied about one-half of all the cultivated land in Cuba.

Cuba was the world's largest producer of sugar until 1932. Since then it has been exceeded only by India, although Cuba continues to be the world's largest exporter. Cuba's share in world sugar production is only about 10 percent, but it supplies more than 20 percent of the sugar entering international trade. Cuban production in 1925 and in 1929 reached a high of 5.9 million short tons (fig. 8 and table 5), which alone is nearly equal to the total consumption in the United States. In the 5 years 1937-41, production averaged only 3.1 million

12 These societies were originally formed to care for immigrants from various Provinces of Spain. Most of the associations own their buildings, clubs, hospitals, and sanitariums and provide excellent medical care for a fee of not to exceed $2 a month.

short tons annually.

The sugar industry plays such an important part in the entire Cuban economy that changes in either the volume or the price of exports are directly reflected in all phases of the country's import trade and internal trade.

TABLE 5.-Sugar production and exports, Cuba, 1856-1940

[graphic][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][subsumed][merged small][subsumed][subsumed][merged small]

SECRETARÍA DE AGRICULTURA DE CUBA. ZAFRA DE 1939. Cuba Sec. de Agr. Mem. An. 1939, 127 pp. illus.; and Instituto Cubano de Estabilización de Azúcar.











1925 1930 1935



1900 1905 1910 FIGURE 8.-Sugar production and exports, Cuba, 1902-41. Production does not include molasses and sirups.


In addition to sugar, Cuba also leads in the production and export of blackstrap molasses, a byproduct of the sugar industry. Exports from Cuba in the years 1936-40 averaged over 157 million gallons annually, valued at 6.5 million dollars, or about 5 percent of the total value of sugar exports. Other sugar byproducts produced in large quantities are invert sirups and high-test molasses (table 6).

TABLE 6.-Molasses and sirup production in Cuba, 1902–41

[blocks in formation]

Sugarcane was introduced into Cuba early in the sixteenth century. Cuban production, however, was on a relatively small scale until the nineteenth century.13 By 1853, production had reached 322,000 tons and from 1859 to 1890 ranged between one-half and three-fourths of a million tons. The abolition of slavery in the 1880's caused little difficulty, since the colono system developed rapidly to take its place. In the early nineties there was a sharp rise in production to over a million tons, but this was followed by a disastrous fall in 1896-1900 due to the War of Cuban Independence. A sharp upward trend was renewed only after 1902. Subsequently there was little interruption. The reciprocity treaty with the United States insured further expansion of the industry. By 1914 production had risen to 2.9 million short tons, by 1919 to 4.5 million tons, and in 1925 an all-time record of over 5.9 million was attained. Subsequently production was reduced in accordance with restrictions under international treaties, but in 1929, when restrictions were temporarily removed, production again reached 5.9 million tons. New restrictions and the great drop in the world market, especially in the United States market, brought about a rapid decline in Cuban sugar production to a level of about 3 million tons in recent years (table 7). The present mill capacity, as indicated by the total of the maximum production ever attained by each of the 174 mills now in Cuba, amounts to 6.9 million short tons TABLE 7.-Sugar production, 1939–40, and maximum ever recorded in Cuba, by Provinces

[blocks in formation]

1 The total of the maximum production of each Province amounted to 6,770,000 tons, but the maximum ever attained in the country as a whole was 5,894,000 tons in 1925. Secretaría de Hacienda, Dirección General de Estadística.

13 The troubled condition of Haiti gave Cuba an opportunity to increase its sugar output. The influx of a new planter class from the revolting Spanish colonies and the decline of coffee production all contributed to enable Cuba to strengthen its sugar industry.

« PreviousContinue »