Empty Fields and Tobacco on Hold in Pinar del Rio


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Empty Fields and Tobacco on Hold in Pinar del Rio, Current Epicenter of the Pandemic

amarillas-Pinar-Rio-FacebookEl-Guerrille
“Around here everything is full of yellow ribbons or fences to prevent people from moving between one neighborhood and another,” says a resident of Pinar del Río. (Facebook / El Guerrillero)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, Pinar del Río, 5 November 2020 — “We didn’t even go out onto the balcony,” says Gerardo Ochoa, one of the hundreds of residents of the Hermanos Cruz neighborhood in Pinar del Río, confined in one of the many quarantine zones that proliferate in the province, the current epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic in Cuba.

“Around here everything is full of yellow tapes or fences to prevent people from moving between one neighborhood and another,” Ochoa comments by telephone to this newspaper. “The problem is that this has caught us already exhausted, because we have so many problems caused by the coronavirus for months. When it is not the lack of products in the stores, it is the lines to buy anything, and now the isolation.”

On Tuesday night, the Ochoa neighborhood was closed down. Most of the residents live in rough three-story buildings built in the late 1980s and with serious infrastructure problems. “You have to stay at home, but many of these houses do not have the conditions for one to spend the whole day here. We have many problems with the roofs, with the water supply, not to mention the food.”

As of this Wednesday, more than 22,000 people from Pinar del Río remained under epidemiological surveillance and the massive confinement has coincided with a deterioration in the weather conditions in the west of the island. “When it rains here all the roofs lead,” added another resident of the Hermanos Cruz neighborhood who prefers anonymity and whose nephew was infected with the virus in the resurgence that started on October 6.

The outbreak affected 558 people as of Thursday. “He started to feel badly and when they tested him he was positive. Now they have him isolated and the whole family is also in quarantine.”

The complexity of the isolation in this province, with large rural areas, has made it more difficult for the authorities to detect the possibly infected. “Many people hide when they feel bad because they do not want to be taken out of their homes and taken to isolation centers,” explains a resident in the Consolación del Sur area, another of the areas most affected by infections.

In the Vueltabajo area, famous for its tobacco crops, life and the fields have also been put on hold with 21 outbreaks scattered throughout the territory. “Here we believed that the coronavirus was a thing that happened in the cities, where many people live together, and we were not prepared,” acknowledges Lázaro Rodríguez, a resident near San Juan y Martínez.

“My parents, who live in Consolación, were taken to isolation at the Faculty of Physical Culture and I have a brother who is in quarantine at the University of Medical Sciences. They are all asymptomatic but awaiting the results of the tests,” explains Rodríguez.

“It is hard because they are people used to living on their farms, being outside, and now they have had to leave behind their cultivated fields and even their animals, and live in buildings where they share small spaces with a lot of people who are in the same situation.”

“Right now we were in the middle of picking and stripping the tobacco and all that had to stop,” adds Rodríguez. “Much of this work is done inside tobacco houses and normally we have contract workers who help us, but now they cannot leave their neighborhoods or their homes because they are in quarantine.” A sawmill in Guane and several cooperatives have also been affected by the isolation.

The authorities’ solution for not completely stopping the flow of production in the most affected areas has been to keep state workers from poultry farms and other companies sheltered in the premises where they work. But private farmers cannot do the same because it is forbidden to leave or enter homes that are in quarantine areas.

“My brother-in-law has been sleeping on a chicken farm for a week and he’s desperate, because the conditions there are very bad, they don’t even have a place to rest, and they sleep on the dining room tables. In that situation, they can’t bear it,” explains Rodriguez.

For this year, in Pinar del Río, 19,890 hectares of tobacco were initially prepared for a harvest of 21,944 tons of the leaf, but meeting that number means successfully overcoming the current obstacle, which has nothing to do with rains or hurricanes that, in past years, were an obstacle.

“One spends the year taking care of the tobacco against pests, drought or downpours, but we are not prepared to also take care of the coronavirus,” Roberto Díaz, a farmer from the area near the famous Hoyo de Monterrey, tells this newspaper. The Hoyo de Monterrey area harvests the best leaf in the whole country and, some say, also in the world.

“The weather may be good, we can have the houses ready for drying and even have the resources to transport the leaf, but we lack the people because they are isolated at home and cannot go out,” says the tabacco grower. “This is the first time something like this has happened to us. We are used to and prepared for other difficulties, but not for this one.”

 

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2 hours ago, Kaptain Karl said:

Looks like more price hikes in the future ?

Yeah for sure a global hike to match Australian prices should help them a little. ????. Well said. I am sure they will push on and push through without complaint. Sad to hear , all the best to them 

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Looks like nature has added to the damage of the pandemic...

From 14ymedio yesterday - translation by Google.

https://www.14ymedio.com/cuba/vegueros-Pinar-Rio-cosecha-excesivas_0_2999100064.html

The vegueros of Pinar del Río foresee a bad harvest due to excessive rains The tobacco collection plan is reduced by 3,500 hectares, a product that in 2019 left 270 million dollars in exports.
14ymedio, Havana | December 07, 2020

Pinar-Rio-Delta-Eta-Telepinar_CYMIMA20201207_0002_16.jpg.4eb477c459ee6d3cb99be13373abf7ef.jpg

The bad news is piling up in Cuba. One of the most emblematic products of the Island, tobacco, does not promise to leave good data either after the blows of Hurricane Eta flooded the fields of Pinar del Río, where 70% of the country's leaf is usually grown and that they had suffered a month of October with double the normal rains because of a previous storm, Delta.

As a consequence, the authorities have been forced to deduct 3,500 hectares from the 19,700 of the initial plan.
And it remains to be seen that even that figure will be reached, as the damage caused and the delay require an almost impossible effort to fulfill.

Tobacco is a huge source of income for a government that cannot afford to miss more dollars now. Only last year, the product left a profit of almost 270 million dollars in exports, somewhat better than the previous year but far from the 400 million dollars it reported in 2017.

Joel Hernández, director of the Integral and Tobacco Company of Pinar del Río, has indicated that of the 4,000 hectares initially planned in the province, the plan has been reduced to 3,400 and only half can be planted before the end of the year.
The delay has consequences, according to the producers themselves, since it implies leaving too much product to be sown for January and February, which in turn delays the harvest until April, a month complicated by pests and adverse weather.

Just one of those fears materialized for the vegueros of the Hoyo de Monterrey, the place that is considered the epicenter of the best tobacco grown in Cuba and one of the highest quality in the world.
Producers in the area were severely affected by the constant rains left by Hurricane Eta in early November, a time when the seedlings are at their most fragile stage.
"Everything was flooded, we lost more than half of the positions and those that survived will no longer produce top-quality tobacco because they suffered a lot," says José Carlos, a tobacco grower from the municipality whose family has been dedicated to that crop for almost a century. "This is very bad news because we depend on tobacco to survive," he adds.

Tobacco, like coffee, sugar cane, potatoes and cocoa are a commercial monopoly of the State. The peasants can cultivate them but they are obliged to sell their crops to the official entities that distribute and export them. A damaged harvest can mean the loss of most of the income for farmers who are practically exclusively dedicated to tobacco.
"We are trying to go against the clock and re-plant seedlings but the rains have continued, the land is quite flooded and this is already a late tobacco, which will not be able to have the reach in height or the quality of the leaf that is needed for cigars more select ", explains Urbano, father of José Carlos and with extensive experience in the cultivation of the so-called layer leaves, which are grown in covered tobacco fields.
"It is not only what was lost in positions, but time. When the downpours began we had everything organized, the day laborers hired and the whole family ready to tend the crops but now the calendar has stuck to Christmas and hiring people in these times it becomes more expensive and difficult, "explains Urbano to this newspaper.
"There are years that we got on the train well, but this year the train left us. What remains is to try not to lose the work done and continue taking care of the vegas even though it is known that it will not be a good harvest," he says .
"I think that the flowers and the fruit bombs that we have planted in part of the farms are the ones that are going to guarantee us the plate of food next year, because tobacco is not going to be there."
Of more than 7,000 hectares that should have been planted at the end of November, only 1,289 were planted. In addition, 12,000 seedbeds were completely spoiled by the rains and another 16,000 were partially damaged.
Given this situation, the Government has praised the marathon days of up to 16 hours carried out by the producers and calls for the voluntary effort of the people of Pinar del Río - "appealing to the 16,000 yoke of oxen existing in the province" - to arrive at figures that allow maintaining certain levels of optimism.

Despite several testimonies from optimistic farmers cited by Granma, the newspaper does not hide the bad situation. Virginio Morales, who has been a specialist in the Tabacuba Business Group for 47 years, has explained to the official press that it is not strange that the consequences of a meteorological phenomenon seriously affect the Cuban fields but admits that he has never seen such a case.

"Like this one, we have not had any, because the events have been consecutive," he told the official press.
Nelson Rodríguez, the Doctor of Science and director of the San Juan y Martínez Tobacco Experimental Station, also told Granma that the damage is greater than usual.
"November is the optimal month for sowing, and it was hardly possible to take advantage of it," he explains.
"As we move away from the optimal period, quality suffers." José Ramón Machado Ventura, second secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, recently visited the area to see the damage caused by the hurricane, where he considered that work was being done to make up for lost time, but urged better use of the land and increase the production of food without damaging tobacco.

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5 hours ago, Fugu said:

Does’t pay the farmers who are losing their crops...

They don't pay the farmers when they yield either. :mad:

12 hours ago, Kaptain Karl said:

Brutal news. Looks like 2022 and 2023 will be years to avoid! 

Not necessarily. The ligero used in 22-23 production would be from at least the 18-19 harvest and seco from 19-20. They've had four consecutive excellent harvests from 17-20 which happens about once a century so I would assume leaf has been stockpiled for just these reasons. So long as the 22 harvest is at least average we should see virtually no consequences of a bad 21 harvest.

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7 hours ago, NSXCIGAR said:

They don't pay the farmers when they yield either. :mad:

Not necessarily. The ligero used in 22-23 production would be from at least the 18-19 harvest and seco from 19-20. They've had four consecutive excellent harvests from 17-20 which happens about once a century so I would assume leaf has been stockpiled for just these reasons. So long as the 22 harvest is at least average we should see virtually no consequences of a bad 21 harvest.

As long as you don't consider continuous price increases as a consequence! Pretty soon a box of marevas will be $300 USD. 

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I feel for the farmers and rural workers, if you have ever been to Cuba you know they have it the worst. Even the towns of Pinar del Rio and Vinales don't offer much and the people at the bottom fee it all the most.

 

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7 hours ago, NYgarman said:

As long as you don't consider continuous price increases as a consequence! Pretty soon a box of marevas will be $300 USD. 

No, I'm not considering that. Quality of cigars only. 

I also don't think this news will motivate price increases. 4 good harvests in a row and price increases have been steady all along. 

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