HAVANA, July 9th (HT) This morning, I ran into someone on the street who said, “I’m going to one of those long lines.” I didn’t say anything because I didn’t quite get it, then he explained, “for whatever comes in,” and we both laughed.
Then, I remembered that we have been suffering a food crisis in Cuba since the beginning of last year, and it is getting worse. To give you an example, chicken and pork – which are what your ordinary citizen consumes the most -, began to disappear, and when they do make an appearance, lines multiply to try and get them.
But it isn’t only lines for food that are growing, it’s lined for pretty much everything, like a kind of curse that has no end, with or without Coronavirus.
Back then, in 2019, the ninety-something-year-old commander of the Revolution and “Hero of the Republic”, Guillermo Garcia Frias, appeared on the TV show Mesa Redonda explaining, on-screen, the alternatives the country’s leadership were looking for to solve a problem that has been going on for decades.
According to his statements, and he wasn’t joking, there are projects involving crocodile, hutia and ostrich meat.
He claimed that hutia and crocodile meat are higher in protein content than beef as if the latter were widely available and within most Cubans’ reach. He also said that they were rearing crocodiles. I imagine that he was referring to breeding projects that have nothing to do with the one at La Cienaga de Zapata.
However, the greatest praise went to the ostrich, an exotic bird which he said produces more than a cow.
These were his words… “it produces more than a cow. It would seem a lie! An ostrich produces 60 eggs. Out of those 60 eggs, we have seen 40 young squabs can grow. Those 40 squabs constitute four tons of meat. Every squab weighs 100 kilos, while a cow will only birth one calf, and it is a yearling in a year, and it doesn’t weigh this much, or have this quantity of meat…”
He added that seven government farms were being developed across the country to rear ostriches, mainly in the eastern region of the country. He also announced that another one was expected to open on the Isle of Youth.
This news unleashed a tide of memes and jokes on social media. The thing is people have stopped believing in their leaders’ crazy delusions, after so many unfulfilled promises and food adventures.
A country that has spent decades without solving its food crisis should be geared towards a farming model that allows productive forces to develop as part of a truly democratic and revolutionary system. A system that is free from bureaucratic red-tape and absurd controls, that respects individual initiatives so as to better incentivize productivity: So farmers can feel like the owners of their work.
The solution lies in that, and not in senseless ideas such as the draining of La Cienaga de Zapata, the 10-million ton sugar harvest, shadeless coffee plantations, tiny cows, buffalos, minced soy “meat”… or moringa.
But while this isn’t the course of action, we will continue to suffer food shortages, and every once in a while, some naive person will ask: “When will we have ostrich meat?”