Cooking with Cuban flavour

The food industry is aiming at investments to expand the country’s processing capacity of agricultural and livestock productions in order to reduce imports.

The food industry is taking the lead in Cuba’s investment policy with plans that expect a strong foreign participation. The most recent steps and announcements confirm these productions as one of the sectors that the government has defined as strategic in the Long-Term Plan it is currently designing.

In 2017 the country is planning close to 189 million pesos’ worth of investments for the gradual recovery of meat, dairy and canned fruit and vegetable productions, Cuban Food Industry Deputy Minister Yanoski Calderín recently reported.

These works, which are a continuation of those initiated in 2016, are prioritising areas that allow for import substitution, Calderín explained. Through the productive linkage of the factories to agricultural and livestock productions, the authorities are seeking to use with more efficiency the agricultural harvests and livestock productions at time of peak productions.

Tourism and other domestic commerce spaces resort to the purchase of food in foreign markets because of the insufficient capacity of the national food industry’s supply.

The ongoing investments open the road to more ambitious plans currently being prepared by the Food Industry Ministry (MINAL) with firms from other countries. Deputy Minister Betsy Díaz reported to the Cuban News Agency (ACN) that that entity is working on 21 investment projects with foreign participation for more than 762 million dollars.

Some of the most advanced business deals include two in the Mariel Special Development Zone. A factory will be built in association with the Nestle firm – it would its third in Cuba – to produce cookies and instant coffee, among other products. The other MINAL installation in the Zone will be a brewery of the Cristal beer.

Díaz announced that the MINAL is prioritising sectors where local production is insufficient, like soft drinks and mineral water, meat and dairy products, the processing of fruit and vegetables, yeast, pasta, wheat and fisheries, especially shrimps. They point to two markets: domestic consumption and increasing exports once the national market is covered, the deputy minister said.

The countries with the greatest participation in these investments include France, Italy, in addition to Mexico, Spain, Brazil, Slovakia and Uruguay, Díaz reported.

The plans for this year – 189 million pesos – double the annual mean in investments developed in installations of the MINAL: in five years up to 2016, its factories have made close to 400 million pesos’ worth of investments and 244 million pesos in maintenance, the MINAL director of development, Caridad López, reported.

Those works lessen the pressure that the limited national capacities exercises on some productions. According to López, the benefits include the packaging of oil in plastic bags, transportation and collection of milk, noodle factories, coffee roasting plants, bakeries and the expansion of the meat industry to process pork.

Others works are the creation of a powdered milk plant in Camagüey and the second stage of the soy yogurt programme.

López recognised, however, that there are still difficulties like insufficient production of several stocks, scarce diversity of products and formats to cover the demand, and getting to consumers the food products with quality and in the required time has not been achieved.

The Cuban food industry has more than 2,800 factories in 23 sectors, the majority equipped with technology with a low productivity and efficiency. (2017)

Redacción IPS Cuba, Inter Press Service en Cuba

March 9, 2017

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