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Yields usually average about one-half pound per tree (or clump of trees), or about 250 pounds per acre, of dry but unhulled coffee during the first years, but increase to about 500 pounds per acre as the trees


The ripe berries picked from the trees are oval-shaped and nearly one-half inch long, red in color, later turning purplish-black. These berries contain the two halves of the coffee bean, surrounded by a fleshy pulp and outer skin. The pulp and skin must be removed and the coffee dried before it is finally ready for market. There are two processes of hulling or depulping the berries. The older process, known as the dry process, is still used on about two-thirds of the crop


FIGURE 30.-A coffee tree in bloom.

and consists of spreading the fresh berries on a large concrete or stone floor in the sun until the pulp partly decomposes and dries. In this state the coffee is known as cascara. This is then put into bags and transported to market and to hullers, who remove the dry hulls by machinery, thus producing the clean, green-colored, unroasted coffee of wholesale commerce, known as descascarado (shelled).

The other and newer method used by the larger growers and the adjacent small growers is known as the wet method. The freshly picked coffee berries are washed in a large tank, which also removes inferior berries, and the pulp is then removed by machinery. The remaining coffee beans are then dried and finally cleaned, ready for market in the descascarado stage.

It is generally considered that about 5 pounds of fresh berries are required to produce 1 pound of finished, unroasted coffee. The exact

yields vary with the regions and the method of handling. The following shows the equivalent quantities for the Oriente region (3).

100 pounds of fresh berries (cereza) produce 32 pounds of unhulled dry berries (cascara).

100 pounds of cascara produce 56 pounds of clean coffee (descascarada). 100 pounds of fresh berries therefore produce 17.9 pounds of clean coffee. Transportation of coffee from the farms to the market is generally an expensive operation because the farms are usually located in inaccessible mountainous regions that have either no roads or very rough roads, passable only for carts and pack trains. Consequently, from 80 to 90 percent of the coffee marketed as cascara is transported by mule pack trains, and possibly 10 percent by carts. The average distance to market is about 20 miles, and according to the census made in 1936-37 the average cost of this transportation is about 42 cents per hundred pounds of cascara coffee.

At the local markets the unhulled coffee is sold to merchants and storekeepers, who hull and rebag it in bags of 132 pounds for sale to coffee wholesalers and roasters. For domestic consumption coffee is roasted very dark and finely pulverized for making drip coffee.

The Government gave the first real stimulus to revitalizing the Cuban coffee industry through increased import duties in 1927, followed by further increases in 1932. Duties on green coffee were increased from 10.6 cents in 1927 to between 14.5 and 29 cents per pound after 1932. On roast and ground coffee the increases were even greater. Another important Government measure was the formation of the Cuban Coffee Stabilization Institute 49 in the winter of 1934-35, which was further strengthened through reorganization and additional powers in 1936. The general plan for assistance to the coffee industry has been (1) to reduce imports through higher duties, (2) to fix minimum prices domestically, and (3) to provide for compulsory exportation of a specified percentage of the crop in order to prevent accumulation of surpluses.

A decree in August 1936 established a minimum price of $5 per hundred pounds for all unhulled (cascara) coffee, which in turn determined the prices for green berries on the one hand and for finished coffee on the other. In 1939 the fixed minimum price was raised to $6 per hundred pounds unhulled, with a minimum price of $2.10 for fresh berries and $13 for finished coffee. This price, plus the costs of merchandising and roasting and allowance for shrinkages, resulted in prices to retailers of from 28 to 31 cents per pound, and to consumers of from 30 to 40 cents for popular grades in 1940. Prices of surplus coffee for export are, of course, determined by the world market level, which for Cuban coffee has recently been from 4 to 5 cents a pound, c. i. f. New York. Consequently, growers' returns on the exported portion have been very low.

In order to provide an outlet for the disposition of surplus production and existing stocks, a decree in April 1936 provided that 30 percent of all production must be segregated and exported within 90 days. This was done for nearly 3 years, but when supplies were reduced and imports increased, the portion to be exported was reduced by law to 20 percent in July 1940 and further reduced to 10 percent in November 1940. It was felt that if a large proportion were made

49 The Institute is supported by a share of the Government taxes on coffee, including a general consumption tax of one-fourth cent a pound on raw coffee and an additional tax of one-fourth cent on roasted coffee. The remainder of the coffee taxes are used by the Ministry of Agriculture for the purpose of promoting the welfare of the coffee industry, construction of roads in the coffee districts, and coffee propaganda abroad.

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available to the domestic market, it would be consumed and would yield considerably increased return to growers. For the crop year 1941-42 and 1942-43 the proportion to be exported was fixed at 17%1⁄2 percent.

In order to maintain the control over prices and movements of coffee, the Institute and the Ministry of Agriculture were charged with issuing permits for the movement to market of all coffee. Transportation of hulled and unhulled coffee from one Province to another and between producing districts was prohibited except under license.

These Government measures have been successful in increasing production, reducing imports, and increasing returns to growers, but they have resulted in high prices to Cuban consumers, who normally take more than three-fourths of the production. They have necessitated the disposition of the remainder of the crop by export at decidedly unprofitable prices. Under the Inter-American Coffee Agreement of 1940, Cuba was allocated a quota for export of 80,000 bags to the United States and 62,000 bags to other markets for the quota year beginning October 1940. This is equivalent to total exports of about 18.6 million pounds and is far in excess of the 10 percent now required to be exported under Cuban legislation.

It would appear that Cuba can, under governmental protection, readily supply domestic coffee requirements but is not in a position to compete effectively in the export market. Except for the fact that exports provide additional foreign exchange and constitute an outlet for surplus production, it is felt that the best interests of Cuban coffee growers would be served by stabilizing production at a level equal to domestic consumption and at the same time taking steps to improve quality.


Cacao, from which cocoa and chocolate are made, is similar to coffee in some respects: namely, in that it is grown on small trees in the mountainous areas and that it requires considerable preparation on the farm after harvesting. It is now of relatively minor importance in Cuba. Its cultivation virtually ceased after the World War because of the great increase in sugar production and the increased production of cacao in other countries. It was partly revived in 1925 but has never regained its former position. Production since 1925 has never exceeded 10 million pounds a year, and in 1939-40 amounted to only 0.8 million pounds (table 42). One of the principal difficulties of cacao cultivation is that trees require from 4 to 7 years to begin bearing, whereas the Cuban farmer is usually financed on the basis of his crop and would therefore much rather produce a crop giving quick returns.

TABLE 42.-Cacao acreage, production, and number of producing farms in Cuba 1928-29 to 1939–401

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1 Actual production is believed to be considerably larger than reported by these data.
Coffee and Cacao Office of Cuban Ministry of Agriculture.









Cacao is grown in Cuba in the hilly or mountainous sections of Oriente Province in the extreme eastern end of the island (fig. 29). It requires well-drained, sandy clay soils with humus and abundant rainfall. The crop is chiefly grown by small farmers, a few being independent owners but the majority being renters operating on a share-crop basis. Average acreage in cacao per grower was about 15 acres according to the census in 1936–37.

Cacao is endemic to tropical America. Three varieties are grown today: Calabacillo, a small-bean variety having a purple tinge and a very bitter taste; Forastero, a large, heavy dark bean, also having a bitter taste; and Criollo, the most valuable variety, with a lighter color, larger size, and sweeter taste, as well as a higher fat content than the other two varieties.

Seeds are planted in nurseries in November, and the seedlings are set out in April or May at the beginning of the rainy season. Banana plants are frequently used as shade. The flowers are small and yellowish and develop into fleshy yellow pods containing the seeds, or beans. These pods, however, are not permitted to develop until the tree is 3 or 4 years old. Some trees have been known to bear for 100 years. Trees are attacked by numerous parasites, but the witches'broom disease, serious in some countries, has not yet attacked trees. in Cuba.

The principal crop is harvested twice yearly, the first or fall harvest taking place during October and November and the spring harvest during April and May. Actual picking is done by the planter and his family on the small farms and by hired labor on the large plantations. After the picking, the pods containing the cacao beans are broken and the beans are removed and subjected to a sweating process and then Idried in the sun. The dried beans are packed in burlap sacks, containing about 132 pounds, and are then ready for shipment to the market.

Most of the crop is marketed through local merchants, although some larger growers in the Santiago region truck their crops to Habana over the central highway. The chief market is Habana, which takes from 90 to 95 percent of the crop. Cacao is classified by quality into two grades; the better grade, called Hacienda, is known in the United States market as Fine Estates Fermented; the lower grade is called Corriente. Prices in 1932 were at the disastrously low level of 2 to 3 cents a pound but during recent years have increased, although not to the pre-World War levels of 9 to 11 cents a pound.

About 90 percent of production is consumed by local manufacturers and confectioners in Habana. Only surplus production is exported, varying from 2.4 million pounds, valued at $351,000 in 1927, to practically none in some years. Exports amounted to 0.1 million pounds valued at $28,000 in 1940 (table 43). Most of the exports are to the United States, where cacao enters duty-free; but on account of the small and uncertain quantities, manufacturers in the United States prefer more stable supplies than the Cuban cacao for blending.

The production of cacao tends to be dependent on the sugar situation. When sugar prices were exceptionally good, cacao production dropped, and when sugar prices were low, cacao production increased. Prior to the war of 1914-18, Cuban cacao production was large, reaching 10 to 15 million pounds in some years. In 1919, when sugar

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