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prices rose sharply, many cacao plantations were destroyed to make way for sugar; but in 1925 low sugar prices caused many farmers to harvest cacao again. The crop of 1926-27 amounted to almost 10 • million pounds.
TABLE 43.-Cacao exports and imports, Cuba, 1926-40
1,000 pounds 1,000 dollars
To United States
1,000 pounds 1,000 dollars
1 5 299
1 Not separately reported.
2 Less than 500.
Com. Exterior, Cuba Min. de Hacienda, Dir. Gen. de Estadís.
Cuba's principal fiber crop is henequen. Although numerous other fiber plants grow in Cuba, their commercial production has not been profitable because of the low quality of the fiber obtainable or their unprofitable yields due to unsatisfactory climatic conditions or, most important of all, the high cost of removing the fiber. In most cases suitable decorticating machinery has not been developed, and under Cuba's relatively high wage scale the costs of hand decortication are too great compared with those in many other countries.
Cotton was grown in Cuba many years ago. During the United States Civil War production in Cuba expanded, but recently only a few farms have grown cotton. The total production of short-staple cotton now is estimated at about 150 bales, handled through one gin at San Antonio de los Baños. Results have not been very profitable, and production is not increasing. A little long-staple cotton, 20 to 30 bales, was grown on the Isle of Pines from 1938 to 1940, largely on an experimental basis. Because of unsatisfactory growing conditions, an uncertain market, and damage from the pink bollworm and the stain bug, it has been practically discontinued. A considerable cotton-textile industry has been developed in Cuba during the past 10 years: in 1939-40 it used about 14,000 bales of imported cotton, almost entirely from the United States.
Cuba's sugar industry and, to a lesser extent, the tobacco and coffee industries require vast quantities of heavy cloth bags and covering for bales. Most of these are imported jute or burlap bags, some are bags manufactured in Cuba from imported burlap, and some are cotton bags for refined sugar. Cuba's imports of jute bags and bagging during recent years have amounted to 45 to 50 million pounds, costing from 2 to 3 million dollars annually, in addition to imports of
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
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.