Raul Castro reports on progress since his call in July 2007 for Cuba to produce more of the food it uses:
“If one day there is no fuel left in this crazy, changing world, we should have our food close by, to be able to bring it in a cart with horses, an ox, or pushing it ourselves (Applause).”
RETURNING TO THE LAND, MAKING IT PRODUCE MORE
Moving onto another subject, of the few that I plan to touch on this morning, on July 26, 2007 in Camagüey, I referred to the pressing need for us to return to the land, to make it produce more. At that time, almost half the arable area was idle or under-exploited. We called at the time for generalizing – with the greatest speed possible and without improvisations – every experience of outstanding producers in the state and campesino sector, and to stimulate their hard work, as well as to definitively resolve the state’s damaging failure to make payments in that sector.
The handover of land in usufruct is progressing satisfactorily, although shortcomings persist, in some municipalities more than in others. Of the 110,000-plus applications made, close to 82,000 have been approved to date, covering 690,000 hectares; in other words, 39 percent of idle land.
I believe that it is little. It is not a question now of rushing to distribute it without control; it is doing so more efficiently, it is doing it in an organized way, and it is a task of top strategic priority. One of the speakers who preceded me referred to the fact that it is a matter of national security to produce the products used in this country and on which we spend hundreds and thousands of millions of dollars — and I am not exaggerating — transporting them from other countries.
The land is there, here are the Cuban people, let us see if we work or not, if we produce or not, if we keep our word or not! It is not a question of shouting ‘Homeland or Death!’ ‘Down with imperialism!’ ‘The blockade is hurting us!’ while the land is there, waiting for our sweat. Despite the increasingly greater heat, we have no choice but to make it produce. I think we agree (Exclamations of “Yes!” and applause)
Flying, mostly by helicopter, all over the country, I sometimes order the pilot to take a detour and fly over any town, city, etc. I can assure you that in the majority, there is an abundance of land, and good quality land, right outside our backyards, which is not being cultivated; and that is where a plan is being made to advance, with intensive crops, irrigating wherever possible, where there is water and the resources to do so. If one day there is no fuel left in this crazy, changing world, we should have our food close by, to be able to bring it in a cart with horses, an ox, or pushing it ourselves (Applause).
Of the land distributed, close to half has been declared free of marabú and other undesirable plants, and almost 225,000 hectares have been planted — that is, one-third.
We cannot be satisfied as long as a single hectare of land exists without being usefully employed, and while a person willing to make it produce is waiting for an answer.
Land that is no good for producing food should be used for planting trees, which are, moreover, a great resource. And the person who is talking to you has experimented for many years, especially in recent years, with planting small forests, and I have had the pleasure and satisfaction of watching them grow, and according to the type of tree, sometimes, within five years, I have formed a small forest with several hundred different types (of trees); but every time we talk about this subject, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture appear — the current one, and all the previous ministers of agriculture — with an endless list of millions of pesos or foreign currency requested for the task assigned, and if a little plastic bag doesn’t appear, the planting can’t be done. I don’t know what the hell our grandparents planted with (Laughter and applause), but there they all are, and we are eating the mangos that they planted (Applause).
We are not educating children to love trees, and that they should plant some— where there is land, of course — over the course of their years in elementary and high school. Some of the youth leaders are hearing me here; but planting trees can be done by young people of the third age, like me; in other words, it is not just a task for the young (Applause).
There are encouraging results for the milk distribution process, which has grown by more than 100 million liters annually in the last two years, given that from 272 million in 2006, it went up to 403 million in 2008, and this year everything seems to indicate that the increase will be higher. I spoke about this in 2007 in Camagüey, on a day like today.
I have very briefly addressed two aspects of the decisive issue of food production, which holds great importance in replacing imports, as I was saying to you, and in reducing the country’s hard-currency expenditure.