HAVANA, Oct. 9th. In the midst of an acute shortage of eggs in Cuba, and when 30 units of this food cost between 2,700 and 3,000 pesos (between 20 and 24 dollars at the official exchange rate), the Government’s alternative is to raise semi-rustic chickens and quails in various areas of the country. The authorities argue that fuel shortages, lack of industrial feed and raw materials are some of the factors that have affected production.
“These birds are easier to feed in the absence of industrial feed for raising other breeds because they are maintained on alternative food and green grass (grasses, insects, mineral matter, and other foods such as leucaena, pigeon peas soybeans, corn). ”
Quail, for example, consumes less and its production time is relatively short,” says a report published by the official Cubadebate website.
In statements to that medium, Zeikel, a farmer from San Cristóbal, in Artemisa, says that “a can of feed, if you can find it, costs around 1,500 pesos, and a pound of dry corn, for example, 50 pesos.” “I have 10 chickens and I have almost no profit. I am selling the cartons for 1,800 and people don’t even wait for it to be complete and they take it by the dozens,” he adds.
The problems with egg production in Cuba are not new. A report from the state newspaper Venceremos states that in 2021, just over 64 million eggs were produced in Guantánamo, nine million less than planned.
In 2022, the deficit compared to the plan was 50% and, according to the article, “the insufficient feeding of the chickens and the late entry of their replacements into the territory” were the main causes of the productive lack.
Eider Álvarez Ramírez, director of the poultry company in that province, also pointed out the shortage of fuel and the lack of raw materials as factors that negatively affect production.
A year ago, the state newspaper Sierra Maestra pointed out in a report that the Santiago de Cuba Poultry Company, of an accumulated plan until October 2022 of 387,800 birds, only had 277,600, which translates into 110,200 less than expected.
The explanation given then by Disney Coello Muñoz, director of Production and Marketing of the Santiago Poultry Company, was that there was “a critical situation with the raw materials for the production of feed”, especially with soybeans and corn. Given this situation, the birds were fed “mixed cereals” that did not meet the nutritional requirements for egg production.
“In the first half of the year, we were affected by the poor quality of the feed available, lacking essential products such as methionine, a substance that directly influences the size of the egg; hence the result has a low percentage of protein and established energy,” Coello detailed.
In Ciego de Ávila the situation was also critical in 2022. A report in the newspaper Invasor warned that, on average, more than half of the chickens in that province were not laying.
The daily percentage of laying was around 43%, of every 100 birds, 57 did not lay. The shortage of cartons that serve as packaging for the sale of eggs was another problem at the national level. The Havana factory broke down in those months and it was not possible to collect eggs for several days.
According to Cubadebate, several farms with the purpose of raising quails have already been established in some provinces. The one in Pinar del Río was the first of the poultry farms that were built “as an experiment in the country, in what were disused country schools.”
It cost 26 million pesos, as Granma published in an article at the time. The property converted into a farm was the former Lázaro Acosta Paulín high school, near the town of Briones Montoto, in the Pinar del Río municipality.
Juan Carlos Cruz González, general director of the Livestock Assurance and Comprehensive Service Company, explained in that Granma reports that they are spacious and solid facilities, “much more resistant to the hydrometeorological events that frequently hit Cuba.”
When this farm was inaugurated, it had a capacity for about 120,000 quails and its launch was announced with the information that it could provide 24.2 million eggs per year.
Cruz González clarified at that time that 35% of that production was going to be sold in foreign currency, “with the purpose of obtaining the necessary financing to acquire the feed intended to sustain the birds.”
The Cubadebate article published this Monday recognizes that none of these alternatives are sufficient to “satisfy” the needs of Cubans. “The prices at which the carton has reached confirm this fact. The cost of the egg also makes other products more expensive in the production of which it is key, such as sweets,” he concludes.