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CROPS PRODUCED PRIMARILY FOR DOMESTIC
Climatic conditions in Cuba prevent the commercial production of the cereal grains common in the United States, such as wheat, barley, rye, and oats. Corn, some rice, and a little millet are the only grains grown in Cuba. Production of rice is small compared with the total requirements of about 475 million pounds. Imports of wheat, largely in the form of flour, amount to about 210 million pounds at a cost of from 4 to 6 million dollars annually. In addition, about 3 million pounds of other grains are imported, chiefly oats to be used as feed for army horses and barley for brewing. Some corn is imported, but exports usually exceed imports.
Beans and peas are an important item in the diet, and are extensively grown in Cuba, but production accounts for only about two-thirds of the requirements, necessitating importation of some 55 million pounds at a cost of nearly 2 million dollars a year.
Cuba also produces large quantities of root crops, including sweetpotatoes, yams, white potatoes, and two others largely unknown in the United States, namely yuca and malanga (table 45). In addition, plantains, that is, cooking bananas, must also be mentioned as an important item of domestically grown food. During recent years the production of peanuts for crushing, to replace imported vegetable oils, has also expanded rapidly. Together, the acreage devoted to these food crops, exclusive of plantains, accounts for about 20 percent of the total area of cultivated land.
TABLE 45.-Estimated quantities of grains and other starchy crops used as food in
Corn meal is an important item of food, and considerable quantities of corn are grown in all parts of the island. Yields are low, and relatively little is used for feed. It is estimated that at least 300,000 acres of corn are grown; and, with an estimated average yield of 15 bushels an acre, total production approximates 5 million bushels. Yields are estimated at from 8 to 30 bushels an acre, which, although low when compared with that in the Corn Belt of the United States, nevertheless are equal to and even somewhat higher than those in the Southern States.
All of the corn is of the hard, flint variety. It is grown on small farms either during the wet summer season or in winter. A large part of the crop is grown for sale as food in the towns, but there is usually a wide spread between the price received locally by the farmers at the time of harvest and the prices on urban markets
several months later. Farmers usually receive from 40 cents to $1 per bushel shelled, but several months later prices in Habana are commonly $2 a bushel. One important factor contributing to this wide price spread is the difficulty of storing corn so as to prevent insect damage and the absence of such storage facilities on small farms.
Corn is at present not extensively used for feed, and it is problematical whether it can be produced at sufficiently low cost to justify its extensive use. On the export market, it must compete with cheap supplies from other corn-producing countries. Nevertheless, some feel that, with improved varieties, practices, equipment, marketing, and storage, production for consumption in Cuba could be expanded. RICE
Rice is the most important grain consumed in Cuba, its consumption being considerably greater than that of corn meal and wheat flour combined. It is the basic item in the daily diet; and the national dish, "arroz con pollo," consists of rice cooked with chicken. The importance of rice in the Cuban diet is indicated by a consumption during the 6 years 1935-40 varying from 450 to 500 million pounds annually, amounting to about 110 pounds per capita compared with only about 6 pounds per capita in the United States.
Nearly all of this important commodity is imported (table 46). Domestic production bas supplied only from 5 to 10 percent of the country's requirements, leaving the major part to be supplied by imports, which have ranged from 412 to 494 million pounds annually at a cost of from 7 to 10 million dollars (table 47). Until 1937 practically all of the imported rice was obtained from the Far East: Thailand (Siam), Burma, French Indochina, and India-countries which import very little of Cuban goods. Subsequently, more advantageous tariff rates on United States rice, rising prices in the Far East, and, more recently, the severely restricted shipping space as a result of the war have practically cut off imports from the Far East and have resulted in substantially increased imports from the United States-from an average of 20 million pounds annually prior to 1937 to 357 million pounds in 1941 (table 47).
TABLE 46.-Rice production and imports, 1911-40
TABLE 47.-Rice imports into Cuba, by country of origin, 1926-41
Rice is the largest single item (in value) of all Cuban imports and accounts for from one-fourth to one-third of all imports of agricultural products. During the 3 years 1938-40, the value of rice exports from the United States to Cuba considerably exceeded that of any other agricultural product. In 1937, 1938, and 1939 two-thirds of all United States rice exports were to Cuba, and in 1940 the proportion rose to 86 percent.
The Cuban Government relies heavily for revenue on import duties on rice. The general rate applicable to rice from Thailand is about 2.13 cents per pound, from other countries (except the United States) 1.68 cents, and from the United States 0.84 cent per pound as reduced under the trade agreement of 1934.51
Rice has long been grown in Cuba. Although there is no indication of the volume of early production, records indicate that it was grown commercially as early as 1861 and that with slave labor a considerable part of the country's requirements were produced domestically before the great expansion in the sugar industry. Production declined until some years ago, when renewed efforts were made to increase production in order to reduce the amount of foreign exchange expended for the importation of rice and also to provide profitable employment for some of the people unemployed as a result of the decline in the sugar industry. Furthermore, the work on the rice crop is from late spring to early fall during the dead season when sugar mills are not operating.
Until recently rice was produced by the most primitive methods. It is grown largely on small farms with an average of 6 to 8 acres of rice per farm. Most of the production has been without irrigation, though a few farmers irrigate. Rice is grown only in the wet summer season, after such crops as corn, beans, or peanuts in the winter. The ground is usually prepared by cross-plowing several times with oldfashioned plows and oxen. The field is then marked off, and rice is planted in furrows by hand, and the fields are hoed to remove weeds (fig. 32). Harvesting is also almost entirely by hand and consists of cutting the grain with a sickle, tying it into bundles, and putting it in shocks. Threshing is also done by hand or by percussion. This, in addition to requiring a large amount of labor, results in breaking many of the grains, thus producing an inferior product. Most of the
51 In addition to the import duty, an excise tax of 10 cents per 100 kilograms (220 pounds) is imposed on all imported rice except that from the United States and Indochina. The revenue from this tax is used to promote domestic rice production.
crop is milled or hulled by means of the primitive pestle and mortar. Under these conditions, it is not surprising that production failed to increase as long as any alternative crops, such as sugarcane, could be grown.
In order to stimulate increased production, the Government undertook a program of increasing production by (1) improving the yields and quality through improved varieties; (2) reducing the cost of operation by making available better equipment, such as drills for planting,
binders for harvesting, and threshers and mills; and (3) constructing irrigation projects primarily for rice. By all these measures the Government hopes eventually to increase production to a point where it will supply from one-fourth to one-half of the country's requirements. As early as 1927 the Government distributed small rice-hulling machines, and in 1928 began the free distribution of seed rice as an inducement to farmers. In addition, conferences and lectures were held to explain improved methods of rice production. During recent years this campaign has made steady progress, although production is still at a relatively low level, possibly equivalent to 42 million pounds of cleaned rice in 1941 (table 48). Nearly two-thirds of the total production is in the southern parts of the Provinces of La Habana and Matanzas.
TABLE 48.-Rice growers, acreage, production, and yield in Cuba, by Provinces,
1 As officially reported. It is estimated that production may actually be as much as 50 percent greater than the data show.
Until recently a large number of varieties of rice were grown in Cuba and little attention was devoted to improving or standardizing them, but since 1928 the free distribution of seed of improved varieties selected by the Government has done much to improve the yield and quality. The improved varieties are Rexora, Fortuna, and Nira, of which the first is the most extensively planted. These varieties require nearly 6 months to mature-Rexora 165 to 175 days and Fortuna about 160 days. They are usually sown from March to May, although some of the other varieties are sown as late as June. reported that in April 1940 the Government distributed 370,000 pounds of rice seed and in 1942 nearly 1,500,000 pounds.
In 1927 the Government installed 39 small milling or hulling machines through sale to principal growers or groups of growers and more recently has assisted in installing several large mills, which operate on a custom basis, charging from 15 to 20 cents per hundred pounds of rice milled. It is estimated that there were in 1940 about 5 large mills having a capacity of about 2,000 pounds per hour and about 200 small mills of possibly 200 pounds per hour. Most of the crop, however, is still retained for use on the farms on which it is grown and only a minor part is marketed.
Most of the rice grown in Cuba is produced without irrigation, although yields could be greatly increased by irrigating. At present there are only a few rivers being used for irrigation, the most important being at Güines, in southern La Habana Province, where some 15,000 to 18,000 acres are irrigated by gravity flow. This project has been in operation for many years and is extensively used for rice as well as other crops.
With about three-fourths of the annual rainfall during the summer months, the moisture supply is usually sufficient to produce yields averaging slightly above 1,000 pounds per acre without irrigation, particularly in regions where the water table is relatively high, as in several coastal regions and on the lower land adjoining swamps. However, in some years the rainfall is deficient and crops fail; rice production as a result is relatively unprofitable over a period of years under the old, high-cost methods of production. With irrigation, rice yields may be approximately doubled; consequently, the Government has given much attention recently to the possibility of establishing a number of irrigation projects, intended primarily for the production of rice, although secondarily for other crops as well. In 1937 a survey was made of all rivers in Cuba to find the ones best suited for
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