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Another formula to sweeten the bitter taste of coffee

7-De-la-cosecha-que-comienzaIts defenders maintain that there is nothing sweeter than bitter coffee. With the substantial increase in purchase price, it certainly tastes sweeter to growers. The ones who really find it bitter are the processing companies, since this measure has generated losses, which they will have to compensate for in an unusual way.

Before, the only concern of Eladio Machín, from Cienfuegos; the Asdrúbal López, from Guantánamo and the Luis Bocourt, from Artemisa, consisted of collecting the grain, reducing its humidity, grinding it to remove the shell, classifying it according to its size and eliminating defects by weight (green grains, broken grains or shells). and color (black, white, fermented and canary).

In these times they have to add other items. In the Artemiseña company located in Bahía Honda, they also make charcoal, collect palm kernels, sell yaguas, rice, mameyes… to improve their income.

It is no longer enough for them to benefit from the product of the five pulpers in the West, three from the Artemisa province and two from nearby Pinar del Río; They have no other choice but to diversify productions, since the fruit originating from the highlands of Abyssinia, now Ethiopia, brings them considerable losses.

It is well illustrated by Carlos Espinosa Piedra, director of that Coffee Processor. “In order to collect all the grain, the State raised the purchase price for producers, without taking into account the coffee value chain, which requires a treatment process.

“So in 2021 we bought a ton of Arabica coffee at 149,000 pesos and sold it at 71,939; that of Robusta to more than 83,000, and we received 46,200 for its sale. Due to the notable difference in prices in the purchase and sale, last year’s losses amounted to more than nine million pesos, ”he reveals.

The really curious thing is that, if they had been more efficient and productive, the purchase and sales would have been greater… and, correspondingly, the losses would have been the same.

This was the case in Cienfuegos, despite higher levels of efficiency, and more severely in Guantánamo, according to Rolando Martell, financial accounting director of the Asdrúbal López processor, where they faced losses amounting to 186 million 297 thousand pesos.

Martell warns that the Guantanamo company was distinguished by solidity, supported by productive and economic results that reflected audits and criteria of financial institutions. What deteriorated its indicators was the incongruous difference between the purchase prices of raw materials and those of sale of benefited and processed coffee beans.

Espinosa Piedra, director of Luis Bocourt, points out that this situation influences not being able to apply monetary incentives to workers or distribute profits at the end of each quarter. On top of that, they had planned an average salary of 3,900 pesos, and only reached 3,270.

After numerous analyses, the Ministry of Finance and Prices approved the Agroforestry Group (GAF), belonging to the Ministry of Agriculture, subsidies for the various processors in the country worth 419 million pesos, Elexis Legrá Calderín, director of Café, told Cubadebate. , Cocoa and Coconut of the GAF.

“This year a new subsidy will be approved again, but not for the product, but rather destined to honor the commitments with the producers and the Bank”, he specified.

“The companies will continue with losses due to the difference in coffee prices, which limits the application of salary incentives, differentiated payments or distribution of profits. Our strategy lies in promoting diversification and increasing exports, to obtain more income”.

Another path that does not imply renunciation

Its charcoal is in great demand at fairs and points of sale in Bahia. This year they plan to sell 114.5 tons. Photo: Otoniel Marquez.

So in the processor located in Bahía Honda they take the path of diversification, in search of much-needed profitability.

“That does not imply a renunciation of harvesting more and more coffee. We intend to collect more than 200 tons in 2023. We have already created a coffee UEB managed by the EJT, in La Palma, Pinar del Río. On October 30 another will be born in Sabanilla, San Cristóbal. And before next Friday the 26th we must establish the Pinar del Río Coffee Subsidiary Company”, underlines the director of Luis Bocourt.

“This year 36 tons of ours were exported to the Netherlands and Japan: 18 of Serrano Superior and the same amount of Serrano Lavado. The plan for the year amounts to 54. The other 18 correspond to the harvest that will begin in September,” adds Iván González Costa, head of production.

“We intend to become an exporting company, although that aspiration has not materialized yet; For now, we do it through Cubaexport.

“We have dedicated 92,980 in CL (Liquidity Capacity, a currency exchange control instrument) to producers so that they can buy batteries, limes, herbicides… We also organize fairs or direct sales of the supplies that we have in stock.”

“But currently the main production of the company represents 20% of revenues (barely 11 of the 45 million pesos). And diversification has made it possible to reduce the planned loss, from six million to just over three”, reveals Lázaro Proenza, economics of the entity.

A new drug and much more

Palmex, an effective nutritional supplement, is made with palm nuts sent from Rancho Canelo to the CNIC

“We are topping palm nuts and sending them to the National Center for Scientific Research (CNIC),” says Gelasio Rivera, head of the group that is making the most progress in its efforts to diversify: the Rancho Canelo farm.

An upright, industrious and enterprising man, this veteran filled his people with spirit, there in the heart of the hills of Bahía Honda, almost 40 kilometers from the municipal seat. Where the weeds grew, they erected showy coffee plantations: they snatched from the mountain more than 200 hectares that were populated with coffee trees. His dreams multiplied into thousands of cans full of grains, with sustained growth.

So, the farm belonged to the Minint. “We came to have 170 workers, and we are left with 34, due to the difficulties in continuing to serve them as they deserve.” Until recently they had 70. “Having a sufficient workforce has become extremely complicated.”

Of course, only the results of work will transform that landscape. In the midst of such efforts, they have become architects of diversification.

With the palm nuts sent to the CNIC, the promising Palmex is made, a highly effective nutritional supplement for alleviating the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia. Every month they deliver two and a half to three tons, which brings them about 50,000 pesos. They also sell it in the town itself, and between the two sales they earn about 70,000 pesos.

José Amador and Carlos Cavada climb the trunk of palm trees to heights of 25 to 40 meters. With Isael Figueroa, Mario Luis Valido and Roberto Travieso, they have made palm nuts a distinctive item of the Bahiahonda company.

A smaller brigade collects and sells yaguas in Bahia, which bring them between 15,000 and 20,000 pesos. And another five plant cassava, sweet potatoes, rice… for self-sufficiency, sale to workers and a part to the population.

As if that were not enough, on the precise date and with a waning moon, they have collected such quantities of mamey that they far exceed 55,000 pesos. And it would have happened in a similar way with the mango, were it not for the scourge of pests and the lack of current in the industry.

“We are beaten with the breeding of dark-coated pigs. By December we hope to have more than a hundred. We have sold a lot of ginger. And we have good coffee nurseries. I plan to sell between 13,000 and 15,000 Robusta seedlings for planting in the plains”, says Gelasio optimistically.

Any Artemiseño knows that Angerona (on the outskirts of the provincial capital) became the largest coffee plantation in the country, and Cuba the world’s leading exporter at the beginning of the 19th century. However, from producing 62,000 tons annually in the 1960s, it went on to stock only 6,000 and import 8,000 annually to guarantee supplies to families.

Reversing that situation will now depend on tenacity, on diversifying and making use of whatever formula translates into profits and motivations, on putting endless ideas into each cup of coffee.

(By Joel Mayor Lorán y Otoniel Márquez)

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