GEIA President Iris Quiñones Rojas noted that compliance with investment programs is monitored very closely and adjustments are made when difficulties arise. Photo: Nuria Barbosa

With a focus on import substitution, the Food Industry Business Group (GEIA) is working intensely to expedite manufacturing processes and ensure greater supplies of its assorted products to the population and tourist facilities, while ensuring safety, quality, and minimizing environmental impacts.

Created in 2010 as a Central Organization of Enterprise Management, within a special category, GEIA is made up of 94 entities with 538 basic enterprise units, and 767 production facilities employing more than 77,000 workers, most of which are based in Havana.

The organization covers 24 different industrial food processing and fishery activities. One of its missions is to reduce the time taken for a product to be processed and delivered to the consumer, through investment and the incorporation of new technologies, in order to compensate for the poor state of installations and the obsolescence of machinery.

Industrial engineer Iris Quiñones Rojas, GEIA president, noted during a press conference in Havana that the main aim of the group in 2017 is to fulfill its production plans, marked by growth across all lines, through which it expects to ensure greater supplies to the retail sector and for distribution to the population.

“Within the economic plan,” she noted, “investments are expected to double compared to last year, to ensure sustained growth in production volumes by 2018. I’m referring to changes in complete lines to diversify products, mainly in the meat industry and dairy products, in order to respond to a greater quantity of supplies from the agricultural sector.”

The GEIA president revealed that modernization works on one of the island’s vegetable canning factories, located in the central province of Ciego de Ávila, should be completed this year, to create greater potential in the industrial processing of surplus crops in areas that reach high yields per hectare.

This activity is monitored by the Ministry of Food Industry, to which GEIA is attached, with weekly checks by the minister and daily checks undertaken through the national enterprises that make up the group. “Compliance with the programs is monitored very closely and adjustments are made if there are any difficulties,” Quiñones Rojas explained.

She indicated that these measures respond to the economic strategy outlined in the Economic and Social Policy Guidelines of the Party and the Revolution, approved by the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in 2011, and will guarantee that the group commences 2018 with better technical conditions, in order to assume the production of diverse product lines and offer greater volumes to the population.

She added: “We have a strong commitment to the leadership of the government in the fulfillment of the investment program, based on the support received by the business system and the rest of the institutions that are linked to it, such as the packaging, machinery, replacement parts and pieces, and other institutions that exchange with us.”

The Food Industry Business Group is seeking to increase production volumes in all lines this year. Photo: Alberto Borrego Photo: Alberto Borrego

She also acknowledged the task of presenting in the coming months to the Cuban Parliament a medium-term recovery program for the industry, so as to stimulate agricultural production. At present, the group is drafting plans adjusted to the Cuban reality, including prospects for the coming year and beyond.

Quiñones Rojas referred to the 2016 annual report, presented February 24, which made reference to the need to systemize the process of implementing the newly updated Economic and Social Policy Guidelines approved at the 7th PCC Congress, including changes that favor the economic model of the process of institutionalization, as well as the reorganization of the different levels of the Business Group’s structure.

Other issues outlined included: the pressing need for a medium-term recovery program for the industry, and a long-term development program to be presented before the end of the year; ensuring the implementation of policies adjusted to quality standards; to contribute to the perfecting of the control system established in different entities and to provide continuity to the strategy to prevent illicit acts and corruption; achieving an adequate understanding of the quality management and food safety approach; strengthening actions to ensure the improvement of products; enriching the portfolio of foreign investment opportunities in this sector; and making the most of material resources.

In this regard, the group president noted cooperative relations with several countries based on collaborative projects in the fishing sector, mainly with Vietnam, that have offered encouraging results. GEIA has also collaborated with Norway in the area of commercial fish farming. Further projects in productive training are underway, involving Cuban and French agriculture enterprises.

Finally, Quiñones Rojas referred to the commitment to supplying healthy food, based on agro-ecological products, and noted that investigations are currently underway to reduce sugar levels in certain products, and ensure supplies of tastier, healthier, and more competitive foodstuffs.