New agricultural contacts between Cuba and Spain

Cuba's new geopolitical climate has allowed the country to have closer contacts with Spain and opens new possibilities for technical and commercial cooperation, especially in the field of agricultural and livestock cooperatives. Among the players in this growing rapprochement is, for example, Acodea, the first Spanish-speaking agency devoted to international cooperation for agricultural development, which is formed by the Agro-alimentary Cooperatives from Spain, the UPA agricultural organization, and the Fademur rural women federation. One of Acodea's main objectives is improving the living and working conditions in developing countries. Manuel Nogales, Acodea's liaison, told Efeagro that Cuba had begun a change process and that the agricultural cooperatives could be a positive vehicle to drive new economic growth.

So far, agriculture has depended on the state, which controlled production, as well as the import of supplies, machinery and other goods.

Help to fill gaps
Nogales said the Cuban cooperatives had some shortcomings in areas such as marketing, investing, processing, quality certification, importing-exporting, and financial management, which opened possibilities for the support and cooperation from Spain.

Nogales had a first contact with a Cuban delegation in the Netherlands, after they had a meeting with Agriterra. Later, in September 2015, he traveled to the Central American country to visit four cooperatives and meet with members of different ministries and the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP).

ANAP currently has more than 375,000 associates in Cuba (17.5% of which are women), that are organized in 3,365 grassroots organizations: 889 Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPA), and 2,476 Credit and Services Cooperatives (CCS).

According to Acodea, one of the peculiarities of the Cuban agricultural sector are the Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC), a hybrid between a state-owned company and a cooperative where the partners work leased lands with collective means of production that they buy from the state.

A trip to Cuba to exchange experiences
Acodea is planning to travel to Cuba soon with a representative delegation of Spanish agricultural-food cooperatives, to exchange experiences and open new channels of bilateral cooperative.

In this new opening stage of Cuba, we won't curb cooperatives from both countries from exploring agreements nor any possibilities of Spanish investment, corporate collaborations or sharing commercial links.

"Business opportunities and trade relations can arise. From our point of view, speaking the same language opens up many possibilities. The ties that have existed between Cuba and Spain for many years should now be clearer," he stated.

"Ideally, we should take advantage of the relationship we've built for so long and further strengthen it. Spain should make the best of this," said Acodea's expert.

A clear need to modernize equipment
According to Nogales, the sectors that could benefit from mutual cooperation are the sugar, fruits, meats, coffee and livestock sectors. Cuba has cooperatives in all these areas, but they need to modernize their equipment to begin processing and adding value to their products, he stressed.

"The goal is that farmers stop being mere intermediaries of raw materials and start processing food for the internal and external market," Nogales stated, after noting that the country was currently heavily dependent on imports to supply its population.

He also spoke about Cuba's high potential, as it has an extensive acreage, and the need for farmers to become self-sufficient. Cuba also offers extensive possibilities for cooperation with Spain, he added, and not only in the urban gardens that the island has successfully popularized in recent decades.

The Central American country has agricultural engineers that are highly appreciated outside their country because of the high knowledge they have in areas such as animal breeding, crop management, and in organic production.


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