OFFICIAL VOICE OF THE COMMUNIST PARTY OF CUBA CENTRAL COMMITTEE
By the end of this year, projections indicate that Cuba should receive 4.75 million international visitors. Photo: Juvenal Balán

AS part of his work agenda last week, the President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers reviewed progress being made on agricultural, energy, and tourism plans, which he is checking on regularly, given their importance to the country’s development.

First to be discussed was the urban, suburban, and family agriculture program, along with the fruit growers' cooperative movement, which, Díaz-Canel recalled, were promoted by Army General Raúl Castro Ruz, first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Elizabeth Peña Turruellas, head of the urban, suburban, and family agriculture department, reported that currently under cultivation across the country are 8,321 hectares of vegetables and fresh condiments in intensive small urban and suburban farms.

Another 461 hectares are devoted to medicinal plants in 142 farms that raise 42 species for the Ministry of Public Health, she noted, while highlighting the 483,060 yards and parcels under cultivation by families, as the broadest expression of the movement's efforts. These family plots include 36,175 hectares across the country, producing 752,215 tons of vegetables, beans, and fruit; 48,094 tons of meat from small livestock; 112 million eggs and 587,000 liters of goat's milk, all destined for community consumption to support local self-sufficiency.

For its part, the suburban agriculture program, which identified 324,283 hectares of idle land around the country's cities in 2009, has reduced that figure to 35,610 hectares.

Peña noted that one of the main problems impacting the development of urban, suburban, and family agriculture is limited access to irrigation equipment and spare parts needed for maintenance of these systems, which often contributes to low yields.

Also a topic of discussion was the fruit growers' program, which currently includes

353 cooperatives, with a total area of 21,076 hectares planted, representing 22% of the country's orchards and groves.

Arisbel Ferro Barrio, vice president of the Agricultural State Enterprise Group, said that the most common fruits grown are mango, guava, avocado, coconut, mamey, and papaya, adding that 39 mini processing plants have been installed to handle these cooperatives' harvests.

In 2017, these plants produced 5,000 tons of fruit and vegetable preserves for the population and tourist facilities, including shredded coconut, guava and grapefruit preserves, mango slices in syrup, and marmalades.

Lázaro Hernández Hernández, president of the Antonio Maceo Credit and Services Cooperative in Bejucal, Mayabeque, one of the movement's initiators, shared his long time and more recent experience with mixed farming, interspersing Robusta coffee among mamey and avocado trees, which has shown promising results.

Díaz-Canel noted the value of these programs, providing the population with a better, more varied diet; diversifying offerings; and generating employment, although much potential remains to be exploited.

He commented on the importance of abiding by established agricultural practices to ensure good harvests, including attention to the quality of seeds and preparation of soil, while insisting on the use of science and maintaining links between those working the land and research centers, as well as the recovery of practices, both in cultivation and distribution, that in the difficult years of the Special Period produced positive results.

A GREEN LIGHT FOR RENEWABLE ENERGY

With the goal of generating 24% of the country's electricity with renewable resources by 2030, a number of investment projects of important impact are underway, that will allow for a reduction in fossil fuel consumption and polluting emissions into the atmosphere.

Liván Arronte Cruz, director of the national electric company Unión Eléctrica, reported on the 51-megawatt Herradura 1 wind farm, located in the municipality of Jesús Menéndez, Las Tunas province, which should be in operation by December of 2019, and will eventually produce 134.5 gigawatts/hour annually, saving 36,000 tons of fuel a year.

Also under construction in Jesús Menéndez is the foundation for a second 50-megawatt wind farm, Herradura 2, which will generate 190.7 gigawatts/hour/ annually, saving 51,400 tons of fuel.

Arronte reported that currently in operation are 49 solar photovoltaic parks, generating an estimated 165 gigawatts/hour annually, and that another 17 should be completed by the end of the year.

For his part, Didier Estévez Guerrero, director of the AzCuba sugar state enterprise group, detailed the bioelectric projects underway in this industry, including the construction of biomass generators at the Ciro Redondo, Héctor Rodríguez, and Jesús Rabí mills.

FOR QUALITY TOURISM

By the end of this year, projections indicate that Cuba should receive 4.75 million international visitors. While this figure is below initial projections, the sector made a laudable effort in the face of weather contingencies and additional restrictions imposed by the United States on visits from that country.

This news was reported by Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz, while during the discussion President Díaz-Canel reaffirmed the importance of this sector for the country and the need for central state administration to be prepared to meet the demands of the leisure industry.

He recalled the immense investment effort that has been underway since the 1990s, when slightly more than 350,000 tourists visited the island, and called on all entities to contribute quality products and services to Cuban tourism.

Marrero reported that the completion of 4,625 new hotel rooms was projected for the year, but that this plan will be surpassed, with some 5,357 to be ready, basically as a result of excellent progress on construction of Varadero's Hotel Internacional, which is advancing ahead of schedule.

He also noted the recent inauguration of the Hotel Segundo Frente, located in the Santiago de Cuba municipality of the same name. The focus here will be on nature tourism, and the hotel represents a new stage in the development of this line, in response to unmet demand for these types of activities, he said.

Marrero noted that satisfaction surveys conducted by the ministry at airports, as tourists leave the country, indicate that 39.07% are repeat visitors, and their reasons for choosing Cuba include our beaches, culture, people, and security, in that order.