CUBA could become one of the main providers of tropical organic produce for the United States if the blockade was lifted, believes academic L. Ann Thrupp, director of Organic Development.
The island is already exporting fresh oranges and grapefruits and pure organic citrus juices in small quantities to Europe, but at prices approximately 40% higher.
In 2003, almost 500 tons of organic honey was sold thanks to certification previously awarded to several different areas in the eastern region.
Also, in the most easterly region of the country, more than 3,000 hectares of coffee cultivation areas have been certified as organic, producing just over 300 tons of coffee last year, at prices between 25-40% higher than those on the traditional market. With respect to cacao, certain areas have also been certified for exportation of an organic crop.
The Caribbean island began intensifying ecological practices in 1989. From that point until the end of 2003, the use of chemical fertilizers was reduced eleven-fold and twelve times with respect to pesticides.
The U.S. academic also praised the way in which Cuba is producing biological products capable of controlling pests and disease as well as developments in the field of reproducing the natural enemies of harmful insects.
Mr. Thrupp acknowledged that within Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba occupies a very privileged position thanks to strong governmental support and a scientific base; essential conditions for developing ecological agriculture.
At the same time, Dr. Alberto Ruiz, a Cuban organic agriculture expert, told Granma International that Cuban agriculture began using diverse strategies to control pests and disease from 1980 onwards, in order to gradually reduce the use of chemical products.
The application of biological controls began by preserving and reproducing the natural enemies of the bacteria, viruses and insects that are harmful to agriculture. In order to achieve this objective, Cuba had to embark on a program in centers where those biological means were multiplied using semi-handmade techniques.
There are currently 220 reproduction centers producing seven lines of bio-pesticides including bacteria, mushrooms and insects, located throughout the country. Three industrial plants were also constructed to manufacture more concentrated bio-pesticides.
In 1990, Cuba produced 1,700 tons of bio-pesticides. From that year onwards, the average has ranged from 2,000 to 2,500 tons per annum.
The campesinos and cooperative workers also benefit from these organic methods. Orlando Lugo Fonte, president of the National Association of Small Farmers commented that in several cooperatives, laboratories have been installed to manufacture bio-pesticides. In one cooperative alone in the Habana province neighborhood of Guines, 500 tons of these products were manufactured last year.
He went on to say that they also select the most experienced producers of these natural techniques to organize agro-ecological workshops in their own homes to share their experiences.
In order to nourish the soil without resorting to the continued use of chemical fertilizers, the island has developed several lines of work, added Dr. Ruiz, who is secretary of the National Committee of Cuban Organic Production.
Organic nutrition from the earth includes the use of vegetable manure, worm humus and agricultural and industrial residues. In order to develop these bio-fertilizers using local resources, the country has had to implement basic conditions in each area to make the most of available resources so that nutrients extracted from crop harvests may be returned to the soil.