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Foreign Agriculture Bulletin No. 2

Issued December 1942

1 Submitted for publication November 1942.

? This bulletin was prepared by the author while on detail to the Department of Agriculture. The

author was a member of a commission which early in 1941 at the request of the Cuban Government studied

the possibilities for the diversification of Cuban agriculture.

Grateful acknowledgment is given especially to Consul General H. S. Tewell and other officers of the U.S.

Consulate General at Habana for basic information contained in their reports. Acknowledgment is also due

the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture for supplying information and photographs. The assistance of R. F.

Lankenau in collecting data is likewise gratefully acknowledged.

The metric system of weights and measures is extensively used in Cuba, but in addition there are several

other common units peculiar to the country. The following rates of conversion were used in this report:




mile. 0.6214


-gallons.. 175


„inches.. 39. 37





-do.... 33.4


..quarts.. 1. 057




acres.. 33. 1619


do 3. 31619 Long ton (Cuban). -pounds.. 2, 272. 032


do 2. 471 Short ton (Cuban)


2, 028.6


do. 1. 77693 Metric ton..

do... 2, 204. 62


do.. 0. 63969 Quintal

do.... 101. 43


do. 0. 102352 Arroba.


26. 3575

Are (1/100 hectárea)

do... 0.02471 Libra...

do.... 1.0143

The Cuban Peso (100 centavos) was almost exactly equal in value to the United States dollar from 1903

to September 1939, when its value declined to approximately 90 cents. It remained at about this level until

Tune 1941 and then rose to 99 cents. All values given are the original Cuban pesos without conversioni




The palm-covered island of Cuba 3 is frequently called the Pearl of the Antilles. It is the largest of the West Indian Islands and lies in the Caribbean Sea only about 90 miles south of Key West, Florida. Cuba is the nearest to the United States all of our Latin American neighbors with the exception of Mexico (fig. 1). It has an area of

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44,164 square miles, which is about the size of either Pennsylvania or Louisiana, and it is about three times as large as Switzerland. Cuba is rather densely populated, with about 4.2 million inhabitants. The climate is subtropical, frost-free, but with moderate rainfall. Sugar and, to a smaller extent, tobacco are by far the most important items produced and exported.

The Republic of Cuba consists of the island of Cuba, about 27.5 million acres, and the Isle of Pines, about three-fourths of a million acres, in addition to numerous smaller islands. Cuba is long and narrow, extending 760 miles from end to end, but is only 25 to 100 miles wide. The eastern end is only 50 miles from Haiti and less than

• The island was named Juana (by Columbus), then Fernandia, Santiago, and Ave Maria, and finally rogained its original Indian name of Cuba.





600 miles from the mainland of South America, while the western tip of Cuba is only 130 miles from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.

As one of our nearest foreign neighbors, Cuba is located in a strategic position for the defense of the United States. It lies squarely across the entrance to the entire Gulf of Mexico, whose waters wash the shores of five of the Southern States, and it lies across the northern approach to the Caribbean Sea and the Panama Canal.

Not only are good will and close cooperation between Cuba and the United States vital for defense, but Cuba is also the most important of all the Latin American countries from the standpoint of the volume of trade with the United States, particularly in agricultural products. During recent years, 1936–40, the total trade with Cuba averaged about 200 million dollars annually and constituted about one-fifth of the total United States trade with all the 20 Latin American countries. The extent to which Cuba depends upon the United States is indicated by the fact that more than three-fourths of Cuba's total exports during recent years have been to the United States and, in turn, Cuba has obtained more than two-thirds of its imports from this country,

From Cuba the United States imports principally those products that either are not produced at all in the United States or else are produced in insufficient quantities: Cane sugar, aromatic cigar tobacco, molasses, tropical fruits, winter vegetables, rum, coffee, henequen, sponges, and ores of maganese, copper, iron, and chromium. The total value of imports from Cuba varied from 105 to 148 million dollars annually during the 5 years 1936–40. United States exports to Cuba consisted principally of industrial products, but included about 22 million dollars worth of agricultural products, such as rice, wheat flour, lard, pork, cotton, and vegetables, and about 5 million dollars' worth of forest products.

The United States has always had a close interest in Cuba's wellbeing, as was pointed out many years ago by the Secretary of State under President Monroe (2, p. 372)* as follows: Cuba, almost in sight of our shores, from a multitude of considerations has become an object of transcendent importance to the political and commercial interests of our Union. Its commanding position with reference to the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies seas; the character of its population; its situation midway between our southern coast and the island of San Domingo; its safe and capacious harbor of Havana, fronting a long line of our shores destitute of the same advantage; the nature of its productions and of its wants, furnishing the supplies and needing the returns of a commerce immensely profitable and mutually beneficial, give it an importance in the sum of our national interest, with which that of no other foreign territory can be compared, and little inferior to that which binds the different members of this Union together.

President McKinley in his last words at Buffalo reiterated that other considerations were even more important than the commercial ones:

The peace of Cuba is necessary to the peace of the United States; the health of Cuba is necessary to the health of the United States; the independence of Cuba is necessary to the safety of the United States.

Until 1899 Cuba was under the rule of Spain. Although the Cubans had made numerous attempts to obtain their independence, it was not accomplished until 1898, when the United States helped to attain that objective. After the end of the Cuban War of Independ

Italic numbers in parentheses refer to Literature Cited, p.143. . It was under British rule for 1 year, 1762-63, after which it was returned to Spain in exchange for Florida.

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