Apr 26, 2017Potatoes USA leads mission to Cuba
Potatoes USA organized an informational exchange mission to Cuba March 27 – 31, 2017, comprised of 16 board members, seed potato growers and agronomists to explore the potential role for U.S. potatoes in Cuba. The Potatoes USA team met with officials from the Ministry of Foreign Commercial Affairs and Ministry of Agriculture before heading into the countryside to visit potato production areas. The delegation viewed harvests at two different cooperatives in the Matanzas and Cienfuegos areas. Despite the many challenges facing the Cuban growers, lack of inputs (fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides), minimal mechanization, and poor soil and climatic conditions, they were harvesting a good crop of large white potatoes.
Potatoes are one of the eight foods controlled by the Cuban Government for distribution and price. The Cuban Government tries to provide 15 pounds of potatoes per person per month at a subsidized price for the 3-month period or less of potato supplies. Potato production in Cuba has declined dramatically in the last 20 years, but the Cuban Government is making efforts to revive it, including increasing the import of high quality seed potatoes. The growers and Ministry of Agriculture officials are very interested in planting trials of U.S. seed potatoes to see how they perform in their tropical climate. Based on successes in the Dominican Republic and Central America, Potatoes USA and the U.S. seed potato growers are confident U.S. suppliers can provide potato seed to help improve yields in Cuba.
Future progress would include the completion of the import protocol by USDA and the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture for U.S. seed potatoes to enter Cuba. Ideally, U.S. seed potatoes will be included in the Ministry of Agriculture run trials in the fall of 2017. Further information exchanges can occur with the Cuban potato industry through their representatives visiting U.S. seed potato growing regions.