Agriculture of Cuba
Agriculture in Cuba has played an important part in the economy for several hundred years. Agriculture contributes less than 10 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), but it employs roughly one fifth of the working population. About 30 percent of the country's land is used for crop cultivation.

The inefficient agricultural industry in Cuba has led to the need to import large amounts of foods. Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 now imports about 80% of the food it rations to the public. The rationing program accounts for about a third of the food energy
Food energy
Food energy is the amount of energy obtained from food that is available through cellular respiration.Food energy is expressed in food calories or kilojoules...

 the average Cuban consumes.


Cuba's agricultural history can be divided into five periods, reflecting Cuban history in general
History of Cuba
The known history of Cuba, the largest of the Caribbean islands, predates Christopher Columbus' sighting of the island during his first voyage of discovery on 27 October 1492...

  • Precolonial (before 1492)
  • Spanish colonial (1492–1902)
  • United States Neocolonial (1902–1958)
  • Socialist Cuba, pre-Socialist bloc collapse (1959–1989)
  • Socialist Cuba, post-Socialist bloc collapse (1989–present)

During each of these periods, agriculture in Cuba has confronted unique obstacles and undergone numerous challenges.

Before the revolution 1959, the agricultural sector in Cuba was largely oriented towards and dominated by the US economy. After the communist government took over, the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 supported the Cuban agriculture by paying premium prices for Cuba's main agricultural product, sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

, and by delivering fertilizer
Fertilizer is any organic or inorganic material of natural or synthetic origin that is added to a soil to supply one or more plant nutrients essential to the growth of plants. A recent assessment found that about 40 to 60% of crop yields are attributable to commercial fertilizer use...

s. Sugar was bought by the Soviets at more than five times the market price. Also 95 percent of its citrus crop was exported to the COMECON. On the other hand, the Soviets provided Cuba with 63 percent of its food imports and 90 percent of its petrol.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cuban agricultural sector faced a very difficult period. The agricultural production fell by 54% between 1989 and 1994. The answer of the Cuban government was to strengthen the base of agricultural biodiversity by making a greater range of varieties of seed available to farmers. In the 1990s, the Cuban government prioritized food production and put the focus on small farmers. Already in 1994, the government allowed farmers to sell their surplus production directly to the population. This was the first move to lift the state's monopoly on food distribution. Due to the shortage in artificial fertilizers and pesticides, the Cuban agricultural sector largely turned organic
Organic farming
Organic farming is the form of agriculture that relies on techniques such as crop rotation, green manure, compost and biological pest control to maintain soil productivity and control pests on a farm...

, with the Organopónicos
Organopónicos are a system of urban organic gardens in Cuba. They often consist of low-level concrete walls filled with organic matter and soil, with lines of drip irrigation laid on the surface of the growing media...

 playing a major role in this transition.

Today, there are several different forms of agricultural production, including cooperatives such as UBPC
A UBPC , or Basic Unit of Cooperative Production, is a type of agricultural cooperative that exists in Cuba.- History of the UBPCs :...

s (Unidad Básica de Producción Cooperativa) and CPAs
CPA (agriculture)
A CPA , or Agricultural Production Cooperative, is a type of agricultural cooperative that exists in Cuba today.- History of CPAs :...

 (Cooperativa de Producción Agropecuaria).

Some of this is described in the documentary The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil
The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil is an American documentary film that explores the Special Period in Peacetime and its aftermath; the economic collapse and eventual recovery of Cuba following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991...


Urban agriculture

Due to the shortage of fuel and therefore severe deficiencies in the transportation sector a growing percentage of the agricultural production takes place in the so-called urban agriculture
Urban agriculture
Urban agriculture is the practice of cultivating, processing and distributing food in, or around, a village, town or city. Urban agriculture in addition can also involve animal husbandry, aquaculture, agro-forestry and horticulture...

. In 2002, 35000 acres (141.6 km²) of urban gardens produced 3.4 million metric tons of food. Current estimates are as high as 81000 acres (327.8 km²). In Havana
Havana is the capital city, province, major port, and leading commercial centre of Cuba. The city proper has a population of 2.1 million inhabitants, and it spans a total of — making it the largest city in the Caribbean region, and the most populous...

, 90% of the city's fresh produce come from local urban farms and gardens. In 2003, more than 200,000 Cubans worked in the expanding urban agriculture sector.


Until the 1960s, the USA received 33% of their sugar
Sugar is a class of edible crystalline carbohydrates, mainly sucrose, lactose, and fructose, characterized by a sweet flavor.Sucrose in its refined form primarily comes from sugar cane and sugar beet...

 imports from Cuba. However, the sugar production in the cane sugar mill
Cane sugar mill
A cane sugar mill is a factory that processes sugar cane to produce raw or white sugar.- Processing :Traditionally, sugarcane processing requires two stages. Mills extract raw sugar from freshly harvested cane, and sometimes bleach it to make "mill white" sugar for local consumption...

s has fallen from approximately 8 million metric tons to 3.2 million metric tons in the 1990s.

Today, Cuba has become a net exporter of sugar.


Cuba has the second largest area planted with tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 of all countries worldwide. Tobacco production in Cuba has remained about the same since the late 1990s. Cigars are a famous Cuban product worldwide and almost the whole production is exported. The center of Cuban tobacco production is the Pinar del Río Province
Pinar del Río Province
Pinar del Río is one of the provinces of Cuba. It is at the western end of the island of Cuba.-Geography:The Pinar del Río province is Cuba's westernmost province and contains one of Cuba's three main mountain ranges, the Cordillera de Guaniguanico, divided into the easterly Sierra del Rosario and...

. Tobacco is the third largest source of hard currency for Cuba. The income derived from the cigars is estimated at US$200 million. The two main varieties grown in Cuba are Corojo and Criollo. 85% of the tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 grown in Cuba is produced by National Association of Small Farmers
National Association of Small Farmers
The National Association of Small Farmers is a cooperative federation dedicated to promoting the interests of small farmers in Cuba. ANAP has over 300,000 members.-History:...



Cuba is the world's third largest producer of grapefruit
The grapefruit , is a subtropical citrus tree known for its sour fruit, an 18th-century hybrid first bred in Barbados. When found, it was named the "forbidden fruit"; it has also been misidentified with the pomelo or shaddock , one of the parents of this hybrid, the other being sweet orange The...

. Sixty percent of the citrus production are oranges
Orange (fruit)
An orange—specifically, the sweet orange—is the citrus Citrus × sinensis and its fruit. It is the most commonly grown tree fruit in the world....

, 36% grapefruit. In the citrus production the first foreign investment in Cuba's agricultural sector took place: In 1991, the participation of an enterprise from Israel in the production and processing of citrus is the Jagüey Grande area, approximately 140 km (87 mi) east of Havana, was officially recognized. The products are mainly marketed in Europe under the brand name Cubanita.


Rice plays a major role in the Cuban diet. Rice in Cuba is mostly grown along the western coast. There are two crops per year. The majority of the rice farms are state-farms or belong to co-operatives. Cuba has been a major importer of rice. Recently, the annual rice imports have approached 500 000 tonnes of milled rice. The production of rice is limited due to the shortage of water and similar to other industries in Cuba the lack of fertilizers and modern agricultural technology. The yield per hectare remains lower than the average of Central American and Caribbean countries.


The per capita consumption of potato
The potato is a starchy, tuberous crop from the perennial Solanum tuberosum of the Solanaceae family . The word potato may refer to the plant itself as well as the edible tuber. In the region of the Andes, there are some other closely related cultivated potato species...

es in Cuba amounts to 25 kg (55.1 lb) per year. Potatoes are mainly consumed as French fries
French fries
French fries , chips, fries, or French-fried potatoes are strips of deep-fried potato. North Americans tend to refer to any pieces of deep-fried potatoes as fries or French fries, while in the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland and New Zealand, long, thinly cut slices of deep-fried potatoes are...

. The potato production areas (in total 37000 acres or 149.7 km²) are concentrated in the Western part of Cuba. The main variety grown in Cuba is the Désirée
Desiree potato
The Désirée is a red-skinned main crop potato originally bred in the Netherlands in 1962. It has yellow flesh with a distinctive flavour and is a favourite with allotment-holders because of its resistance to drought, although it is not well suited to organic growing...

. Seed potatoes are partly produced locally. Some 40,000 metric tons of seed potatoes are imported annually from New Brunswick
New Brunswick
New Brunswick is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the only province in the federation that is constitutionally bilingual . The provincial capital is Fredericton and Saint John is the most populous city. Greater Moncton is the largest Census Metropolitan Area...

, Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and the Netherlands
The Netherlands is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, located mainly in North-West Europe and with several islands in the Caribbean. Mainland Netherlands borders the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south, and Germany to the east, and shares maritime borders...



Some 260000 acres (1,052.2 km²) are planted with cassava
Cassava , also called yuca or manioc, a woody shrub of the Euphorbiaceae native to South America, is extensively cultivated as an annual crop in tropical and subtropical regions for its edible starchy tuberous root, a major source of carbohydrates...

. The cassava originates from the Latin American and Caribbean region and is grown in almost every country of the region. Cuba is the second largest producer of cassava in the Caribbean with a production of 300,000 t (2001). However, the yield per hectare is the lowest of all Caribbean countries. Most of Cuba's production is used directly for fresh consumption. Part of the cassava is processed to sorbitol
Sorbitol, also known as glucitol, Sorbogem® and Sorbo®, is a sugar alcohol that the human body metabolizes slowly. It can be obtained by reduction of glucose, changing the aldehyde group to a hydroxyl group. Sorbitol is found in apples, pears, peaches, and prunes...

 in a plant near Florida, Central Cuba.

Tropical fruits

Plantain is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa. The fruit they produce is generally used for cooking, in contrast to the soft, sweet banana...

s and banana
Banana is the common name for herbaceous plants of the genus Musa and for the fruit they produce. Bananas come in a variety of sizes and colors when ripe, including yellow, purple, and red....

s account for over 70 percent of production with plantain 47% and banana 24% of the local production. Both are only produced for domestic consumption. Other tropical fruits produced in Cuba are mango
The mango is a fleshy stone fruit belonging to the genus Mangifera, consisting of numerous tropical fruiting trees in the flowering plant family Anacardiaceae. The mango is native to India from where it spread all over the world. It is also the most cultivated fruit of the tropical world. While...

, papaya
The papaya , papaw, or pawpaw is the fruit of the plant Carica papaya, the sole species in the genus Carica of the plant family Caricaceae...

, pineapple
Pineapple is the common name for a tropical plant and its edible fruit, which is actually a multiple fruit consisting of coalesced berries. It was given the name pineapple due to its resemblance to a pine cone. The pineapple is by far the most economically important plant in the Bromeliaceae...

, avocado
The avocado is a tree native to Central Mexico, classified in the flowering plant family Lauraceae along with cinnamon, camphor and bay laurel...

, guava
Guavas are plants in the myrtle family genus Psidium , which contains about 100 species of tropical shrubs and small trees. They are native to Mexico, Central America, and northern South America...

, coconut
The coconut palm, Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae . It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos. The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which is not a botanical nut. The spelling cocoanut is an old-fashioned form of the word...

, and anonaceae (sugar apple family).

See also

  • Agrarian Reform Laws of Cuba
    Agrarian Reform Laws of Cuba
    The agrarian reform laws of Cuba sought to break up large landholdings and redistribute land to those peasants who worked it, to cooperatives, and the state. Laws relating to land reform were implemented in a series of laws passed between 1959 and 1963 after the Cuban Revolution...

  • Special Period
    Special Period
    The Special Period in Time of Peace in Cuba was an extended period of economic crisis that began in 1991 after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and, by extension, the Comecon. The economic depression of the Special Period was at its most severe in the early-to-mid 1990s before slightly declining...

     - Change in agriculture

External links

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