Luis Morejón Santos collected 63.636 tons of rice in the current harvest. Hardened in these labors related to rice harvest as an ancestral tradition, he states however that “… everyday you learn something new”.
It has been so during the last three years, when experienced Vietnamese technicians have left their knowledge in his birthplace Aguada de Pasajeros municipality, traditional rice plantation of Cienfuegos due to its brown heavy soils and its rich water layer, as well as in the territories of Palmira and Abreus municipalities.
“From the Vietnamese I have learned how to do a lot with little resources- explains the producer- They taught us how to use the straw after the harvest- that some use to burn- and use it as fertilizer. They also taught us how to apply fertilizers, since we used to add them only once; well no, it should be applied in several stages and small quantities so that the soil gets it better and we save resources. Bottom line, they want us to self- supply”.
Aguada de Pasajeros municipality, located in the western point of Cienfuegos, has reached 2 000 tons a year, also Abreus, the only ones among the 8 municipalities that satisfy the needs of their inhabitants, in a province that produces nearly 60% of its annual requirements.
And although last year the plans were surpassed by harvesting 14 600 tons, the current aim rose in other 1000, to which initiatives such as Asian advisory and sprinkle electrification are being implemented, vital among the cooperative and farming sectors which are responsible of 95% of the harvest.
Substituting rice imports is a priority for Cuba, which imports every year around 60% of the national consumption, some 700 000 tons. It would be fair to state that since 1996 the Cuban government fosters rice cultivation and between 2003-2005 due to the delivery of free usufruct small parcels sowing was increased in 90 000- 10 000 hectares around the country. Yet, it is still not enough.
Especially among those who have got lands through Act 259, motivation is visible: irrigation is done through water pumps and the cost of power is absorbed by the state at 13 cents per kilowatt/hour in national currency.
“If it wasn´t for the irrigation system I would have nothing here”, assures Juan Antonio Pérez, one of the new farmers who left his former occupation as a driver to honor his farming background.
“Irrigation using fuel is unaffordable; the government cannot supply us with it due to the current prices, which would be extremely expensive since these soils need weekly irrigation”, he explains.
“I was given 7 ½ hectares covered with marabou, since this plant was strongly settled here, I cut it and also the soils are not as low as the ones required for rice production, you can see I already managed to harvest my first 7.27 tons and now I am sowing beans also with the aim of substituting imports to the country”.
And it is true that this fact enables him to avoid the appearance of bad weed, since as he states that “… I leave no empty spaces; after beans I will prepare the soils for watermelons and meanwhile I have guava and papaya inserted as well as bananas”.
The possibility of electrifying the irrigation system will also benefit experienced Morejón, who devotes 15 of his 20 hectares to producing one of the best seeds in the province. He has been benefitted with the knowledge learned from the Vietnamese and this agreement will widen with the acquisition of new machinery, more comfortable to cutting the seeds.
Technology through which agriculture in Cienfuegos will foster rice production, an essential cereal within Cuban food culture since according to official data the average annual consumption within the population reaches 44 kilograms.