Thursday, April 12, 2007

Adios, potatoes

Whenever he gets nostalgic about growing up en el campo in Cuba back in the 1930s, my father always says something like, “You know, there is no richer or more fertile soil than Cuban soil - you can grow anything in Cuba.”

Which is not strictly true, of course.

Sure, you can grow lots of sugarcane almost anywhere on the island and plantains and yuca and malanga and all kinds of juicy, tropical fruits ranging from guava to mamey.

But as Fidel Castro has found out over the past five decades, you can’t grow coffee in the lowlands, nor giant pineapples, nor tropical strawberries the size of melons.

And it seems you can’t grow too many potatoes, either.

According to the official Cuban newsagency, Prensa Latina, the potato harvest is in big trouble, which may come as surprise to those of us who did not know there was much of a potato harvest in Cuba. At least not since 1959.

The newsagency says the 2007 harvest will be down by a staggering 30 per cent from the 285,000 tonnes of potatoes collected last year.

The reason? It’s too hot.

According to Eduardo Perez, a Cuban potato specialist quoted by Prensa Latina, the potatoes they are trying to grow in Cuba require temperatures below 17C during the night to be able to grow well.

Unfortunately, Mr Perez says, the past few months have “not been favourable” to the growing of potatoes because temperatures have inevitably been above 20C.

So, it’s adios, potatoes, and back to the drawing board.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That my friend is a set-up. As we all know, this will be the reason why there won't be any potatoes in the ration cards this year, but any foreigner will be able to ask for potatoes cooked in any style or form, and they'll surely have it.

They don't make public their bad news. Unless it is to blame the big bad USA for something or to justify something they're about to do that will bring even more hardship on the people.


12:58 am  
Blogger Manuel A.Tellechea said...

It's not like it hasn't happened before. In 1961, Castro declared that the Cuban people would eat malanga for 20 years if necessary to maintain their independence and foster economic self-sufficiency. Within a decade malanga was banished from the ration card and became unavailable in Cuba except for invalids by medical prescription (exactly like oranges). It was better to starve — that is, to be actually underdeveloped — than to have to rely on an "indicator of underdevelopment" for survival.

Of course, the regime could not admit that it had given up cultivation of the malanga for internal consumption because it was concentrating its manpower and scant resources on the Great Zafra that failed.

Instead, it informed the Cuban people that the malanga was a "indicator of underdevelopment" and that it would be substituted by more "wholesome" and "nutritious" alternatives such as soya. What the regime actually meant was that the malanga was eliminated in favor of cheaper (and to the Cuban palate, less desirable) foods.

The noble malanga, immesurably superior in every way to the potato, is now a part of ancient Cuban folklore. The same fate has now befallen the humble potato as well.

Do they grow, or can you get, malanga in Australia?

2:28 am  
Blogger Manuel A.Tellechea said...

BTW: Luís, you will be pleased to know that I will shortly be reviewing your book on my Review of Cuban-American Blogs:



2:56 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What about sweet potatoes? Don't they grow in the tropics?

4:41 am  
Blogger Manuel A.Tellechea said...


Sweet potatoes have also vanished. In fact, Cubans supplied that loss by dousing regular potatoes with sugar syrup, producing something that is not as repulsive as it sounds. But now that there are no potatoes either and the sugar is gone too, it remains to be seen what ingenious improvisation Cubans will come up with next.

11:52 am  
Blogger Jewbana said...

No wonder Gov. Otter (Idaho) and his gang of 35 potato heads are taking a little trip to Cuba.

1:20 pm  
Blogger Jewbana said...

No wonder Gov. Otter (Idaho) and his 35 potato heads are taking alittle trip to Cuba.

1:21 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


There it is, now they can justify buying potatoes from the IdaHOans.

The logic is this: Sorry "pueblo" we had to go and buy potatoes from I-da-Ho, so naturally they can only be sold to tourists. The US blockade prevents us from being able to give it to you, since it costs too much money. We will make due with what we have, and you will resist until we triumph... blah blah blah

Wasn't there another report about their sugarcane crop also being terribly low this year? Who else will they add to the list of their sugar suppliers? Damn that is unbelievable just reading it. CUBA having sugar suppliers..Geez


1:48 am  

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