An experiment started a few days after the meeting of Cuba’s 2016 National Assembly meeting. The issue is food prices, and the solution – or the experiment – is price controls, which are officially called, “variable.”
The National Assembly of People’s Power, held at the Havana Convention Center on December 29, 2015, was called, “Year 57 of the Revolution”. Although not mentioned directly in his address, Raul Castro said that measures would be taken to bring prices in line with wages in response to complaints about food prices.
According to the US Department of Agriculture, Cuba has the highest per capita rice consumption of any country in the Western Hemisphere. Unable to meet production targets, Cuba imports more than 60% of its consumption of rice.
Prior to the 1962 embargo, Cuba was the number one export destination for US-grown rice. In 2000, Congress permitted US agricultural exports to Cuba. US rice sales to the island nation totaled 635,000 MT between 2002 and 2006. A rule tightening in 2005 crippled US exports to Cuba, and there have been no US rice sales to Cuba since 2008.
According to the USDA, Cuba’s field yields averaged 2.8 metric tons per hectare (rough-rice basis) from 2009/10 to 2013/14 and have shown no signs of long-term growth since the late 1970s. Cuba’s yields are low compared with other rice growing countries in the region. From 2009/10 to 2013/14, rice yields averaged 4.7 metric tons per hectare in the Dominican Republic, 4.4 metric tons in Nicaragua, and 3.5 metric tons in Costa Rica.
In another development, a Pakistani ship set several days ago sail carrying around 15,000 tons rice to Cuba.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, said that Pakistan would extend all possible assistance to help Cuba by reciprocating in the same spirit as Cuba had done by sending teams of doctors following the aftermath of the country’s magnitude 7.6 earthquake that took the lives of more than 100,000 Pakistanis in 2005.