Private sector exports in Cuba: A possible path

After two years of efforts to place his products in the international market, Lazaro Rafael Fundora managed to make his first export of 1.08 tons of Persian lemons to Spain in September 2020. By then, he hoped to send a second shipment of avocados to the Old Continent. After many years of perseverance, his wishes have been fulfilled. 

“As a producer I had been trying for a couple of years, because I have always believed that the future of this country’s development is based on exports. This is the most effective way to earn hard currency to be able to buy what we need.

“We didn’t have a way to receive the profits, because the Credit and Services Cooperatives do not handle foreign currency accounts. Now there are new Resolutions such as no.315, in which we have legal protection to do so,” he told the CubaDebate website.

After its announcement in July of this year, several measures have been adopted by Cuba so that non-state managed entities can export their products and import supplies, through state entities.

Among the basic requirements demanded by clients, it is important that the products have good color, juiciness, size, are free of scratches and pests. As confirmed by Fundora, in order to achieve exportable products, more than just good will is required – it also takes scientific advice and certification.

“The first thing was to certify the phytosanitary conditions because there can be no pests that pose a threat to the exterior. We set traps and took the samples to the laboratory so that everything was in order. This was monitored for two years, because there are pests that are seasonal,” he explained.

Once this process was over, the search for the exporting company remained, which was not a problem. He had maintained contractual links from years before to market tourism products with the Select Fruits Enterprise, which was authorized for this purpose. The only thing left to do was to inquire about potential clients and update the contracts.

In Fundora’s opinion, receiving the consultancy of the Cuban enterprise did not constitute an obstacle. The entity’s expertise allowed him, among other things, to secure support for the transportation of the products, in moments when the coronavirus hinders any international movement.

Regarding the details of the legal process, Roberto Hugo Rodriguez Dicks, consultant for the Agency for Cultural and Economic Exchange with Cuba (AICEC), stated that this first experience showed the opportunities and potential that adding the non-state sector to exports represents for the country. It contributes to generating direct hard currency income, and to improving the conditions of producers.

“This scheme allows our producers to access the market directly, receiving income of over 60-70% in MLC (freely convertible currency), which enables them to acquire other supplies and equipment to strengthen the production cycle and obtain better quality products,” he added.

According to Rodríguez, there are some points in the agricultural sector that require further work, which are essential for exports. Among them, he noted the certification of the areas by the Plant Health authority, and a growing culture of organic production, which is highly demanded in the market and calls for a series of norms and procedures that culminate with international certification.

In addition, it is necessary to have a more integrated vision of how to satisfy a specific market. To do this, it is necessary to establish an export plan with a deep analysis of the availability of products, according to the seasonal period and their typology, the application of marketing techniques for promotion with images and information about the producers, the farms where they are produced, the variety of products, etc. Because the market demands information and traceability of the whole process from the field to the table.

Referring to the work carried out by the AICEC and its export-import company HEI (Made in Italy), he explained that they constitute a good example of how to establish a business relationship based on collaboration, where companies can value the intangible aspects of a country like Cuba because of its culture, its history, and its people. This has a high added value, which identifies Cuban products, imbuing them with authenticity and sovereignty.

An example of this is Aguacates Catalina, by producer Lazaro Rafael Fundora of “Finca La Esperanza,” distributed in 32 Italian cities under the campaign “Healthy, fair and supportive,” which reflects the key points of this work. Healthy: because of the naturalness of the avocadoes and the non-use of chemical products and additives; fair, because it is a fair trade initiative, which benefits and respects our country’s traditions; and supportive, because it involves a group of entities, organizations and people who are committed to Cuba or are of Cuban origin and thus wish to make a contribution to the country’s economy in difficult times, he explained.

As more non-state producers join this initiative, they will acquire good practices and more up-to-date ways of managing their crops and, above all, the process to secure exports. We are very optimistic about what can be achieved to benefit our country, he concluded.

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