Skip to main content

Cuba has become the world’s largest per capita consumer of organic food.


















Reese Erlich





June 27, 2014 00:49




What a California foodie can learn from Cuba


San Francisco restaurateur Narsai David went to Cuba to help set up a culinary school. The Cubans — huge organic food consumers, by necessity — taught him a few lessons of their own.






 


Groceries in Havana. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)









HAVANA — San Francisco restaurateur Narsai David is in food heaven as he wanders through the stalls at a large farmer's market. “The papayas are much sweeter and fresher here,” he exclaimed. At another counter, his lips puckered as he tasted a hot pepper.








David is meeting with Cuban chefs in an effort by Green Cities Fund, a Bay Area nonprofit, to establish a culinary school in Havana. The group is awaiting approval from Washington to legally operate as required under terms of the United States embargo against Cuba.






Meanwhile, David is involved in a cultural exchange with lots of people in tall white hats. This morning he will lead a workshop while preparing a picante sauce using fresh papaya, vinegar and chile.





David now knows that the mere existence of well-stocked farmer’s markets is a big change for Cuba. While they had existed for some years, starting in 2008, the government encouraged private and co-op farming, which has markedly increased food supplies.





But food remains expensive for ordinary Cubans. And some items suddenly go missing, warned Imogene Tondre, an American who lives in Cuba and is program director for Green Cities.





“The government couldn’t afford to import industrial fertilizers and pesticides. Cuba had to adopt organic methods.”






“When in Cuba, when you see something you need, grab it,”
she told David.






The papayas and virtually all the other products in this market are grown without use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Cuba has become the world’s largest per capita consumer of organic food.





“About 90 percent of the food raised in Cuba is grown without chemicals. Almost all our pork, beef and chicken don’t use steroids or antibiotics,”
said Fernando Funes, a retired agriculture ministry official known as the father of Cuban organic farming. 





“We are protecting our health and the environment.”





Yet Cuba still imports an estimated 55 percent of its food, according to Funes. As Narsai David was about to find out, Cuban food production is very complicated indeed.





When the USSR collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost trade subsidies that had kept the economy afloat. The economy shrank by 35 percent from 1989-93. So the government could no longer afford to import industrial fertilizers and pesticides. Food became scarce, and the island was forced to adopt organic methods.






The government mobilized agronomists and farmers to develop organic methods suitable for a tropical climate. Food production initially dropped, but eventually recovered to pre-1991 levels for many crops.





More recently the government has instituted reforms to give greater play to free markets and de-emphasize the role of the state. Before 1991, 75 percent of Cuba’s agricultural land was farmed by large, state enterprises; today 75 percent is farmed by individuals and co-ops, according to Funes.










(Adalberto Roque/AFP/Getty Images)









Small farmers have more incentives to produce and innovate, he said. That’s not capitalism, he argued, pointing out that large agribusiness will never be allowed. “This is a new type of socialism, more realistic,” Funes said.





Socialism also means Cubans don’t pay more for organic products. Organic farming is actually cheaper than industrial farming. Farmers don't have to pay for expensive chemicals and labor is cheap. In addition, Cuban farmers don’t raise prices well above the cost of production as frequently occurs in the US.





“The Cuban government won't allow farmers to artificially raise their prices,” Funes said.





But organic farmers, co-ops and state farms still don’t produce enough food to feed the island. 





At the Organoponico Vivero Alamar organic farm on the outskirts of Havana, Isis Salcines explained why. She told Narsai David that the co-op farms 25 acres of tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables.






Organic production for an island of 11 million people isn’t easy, she said. A single bug infestation can wipe out a crop. 




“Organic farming is very hard.”






Food production in Cuba has improved but not enough to meet growing demand. The island has been bedeviled by hurricanes and other weather problems. 






The transportation system remains broken, with farmers having difficulty getting products to market. 






The government has had a hard time converting the old state farms into co-ops and creating incentives for more production.






The US economic embargo on Cuba causes serious problems as well. 





While US law allows American companies to sell food to Cuba, the Cubans must pay cash in advance.





 Cuba can’t sell cigars, rum or anything else to the US, making normal trade impossible.





 The US remains a natural market for Cuba but inaccessible for the time being.





David has gotten an earful of explanations and excuses about Cuba’s shortcomings. 




But he’s impressed with the dedication of chefs at his workshops. 





He turned on a blender to mix papaya and a dash of hot chile. He suggested using the seeds as a garnish.




David became famous as one of the originators of California cuisine, which emphasizes the use of fresh, local products. He said Cuban chefs and farmers should expand their existing networks to make use of the island's wonderful products.





“That’s already happening in several locations in Havana,”
agronomist Funes noted.





Funes dreams that someday all Cubans will have access to fresh, organic food at affordable prices. He’s just not sure when.











Special correspondent Reese Erlich is author of “Dateline Havana: The Real Story of US Policy and the Future of Cuba.”










http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/cuba/140624/california-cuisine-narsai-david-meets-cuba-organic





Popular posts from this blog

THE MOST SOUGHT AFTER MANGOES IN THE WORLD ....

While "Flavor" is very subjective, and each country that grows mangoes is very nationalistic, these are the mango varieties that are the most sought after around the world because of sweetnesss (Brix) and demand.

The Chaunsa has a Brix rating in the 22 degree level which is unheard of!
Carabao claims to be the sweetest mango in the world and was able to register this in the Guiness book of world records.
Perhaps it is time for a GLOBAL taste test ???





In alphabetical order by Country....










India




Alphonso





Alphonso (mango)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia








Alphonso (हापुस Haapoos in Marathi, હાફુસ in Gujarati, ಆಪೂಸ್ Aapoos in Kannada) is a mango cultivar that is considered by many[who?] to be one of the best in terms of sweetness, richness and flavor. 


It has considerable shelf life of a week after it is ripe making it exportable. 

It is also one of the most expensive kinds of mango and is grown mainly in Kokan region of western India.

 It is in season April through May and the fruit wei…

INDIA 2016 : Mango production in state likely to take a hit this year

TNN | May 22, 2016, 12.32 PM IST






Mangaluru: Vagaries of nature is expected to take a toll on the production of King of Fruits - Mango - in Karnataka this year. A combination of failure of pre-monsoon showers at the flowering and growth stage and spike in temperature in mango growing belt of the state is expected to limit the total production of mango to an estimated 12 lakh tonnes in the current season as against 14 lakh tonnes in the last calendar year.



However, the good news for fruit lovers is that this could see price of mangoes across varieties decrease marginally by 2-3%. This is mainly on account of 'import' of the fruit from other mango-growing states in India, said M Kamalakshi Rajanna, chairperson, Karnataka State Mango Development and Marketing Corporation Ltd.




Karnataka is the third largest mango-growing state in India after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra.



Inaugurating a two-day Vasanthotsava organized by Shivarama Karantha Pilikula Nisargadhama and the Corporation at P…

Mangoes date back 65 million years according to research ...

Experts at the Birbal Sahni Institute of Palaeobotany (BSIP) here have traced the origin of mango to the hills of Meghalaya, India from a 65 million year-old fossil of a mango leaf. 





The earlier fossil records of mango (Mangifera indica) from the Northeast and elsewhere were 25 to 30 million years old. The 'carbonized leaf fossil' from Damalgiri area of Meghalaya hills, believed to be a mango tree from the peninsular India, was found by Dr R. C. Mehrotra, senior scientist, BSIP and his colleagues. 




After careful analysis of the fossil of the mango leaf and leaves of modern plants, the BISP scientist found many of the fossil leaf characters to be similar to mangifera.


An extensive study of the anatomy and morphology of several modern-day species of the genus mangifera with the fossil samples had reinforced the concept that its centre of origin is Northeast India, from where it spread into neighbouring areas, says Dr. Mehrotra. 




The genus is believed to have disseminated into neighb…