Cuban Economy & Co-Ops

XINHUA: Cuban agriculture threatened by worst drought in 115 years

Tue Aug 25, 2015 6:42 am (PDT) . Posted by:

“La Alborada”

Cuban agriculture threatened
by worst drought in 115 years
English.news.cn – Aug 25

HAVANA, Aug. 24 (Xinhua) — Cuba’s agriculture is being threatened by the worst drought to hit the Caribbean in over a century, which is jeopardizing plans for the island to achieve its long-desired food independence.

The government is currently spending around two billion U.S. dollars to import 80 percent of the food necessary to meet the demands of its 11.2 million inhabitants, with President Raul Castro calling on Cubans to produce everything that could be harvested in the country.

Since 2008, Castro’s administration has delivered over one million hectares of state-owned unused land to more than 70,000 new farmers while easing rules and regulations for the granting of bank credits and for the free trade of food.

However, these plans are now at risk from a severe drought currently afflicting the entire Caribbean Basin. Considered to be the worst drought in the region in 115 years, it is hitting particularly hard in Cuba.

The lack of rainfall in Cuba, which may well worsen in the coming months, has damaged thousands of hectares of sugar cane and vegetable crops, among others. It has also forced authorities to supply water to over a million people.

A recent briefing note by the Civil Defense National Staff highlighted that the underground water sources are down compared to previous months while high temperatures are increasing the evaporation rate in reservoirs. Cuba reported 10 days with record high temperatures in July alone.

Meanwhile, the Cuban Institute of Meteorology has forecast that the drought will last for the rest of 2015, coinciding with very low hurricane activity. This is highly likely to affect water availability for the next dry season, to begin in November.

Cuban and foreign forecasters agree that the current drought has largely been created by the combined impacts of climate change and the El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO).

Other Caribbean countries are also struggling under the same drought.

Jamaica’s main reservoirs are at under half of their capacity, with the most critical situation being found in the south and east of the country.

In Haiti, a lack of water has been reported in all ten departments, with hundreds of thousands of families who depend on agriculture being affected.

The National Water Monitor of the Dominican Republic has warned that the country’s reservoirs are steadily lowering, forcing authorities to implement tough rationing measures.

A total of 29 of Puerto Rico’s 34 municipalities are also in a state of extreme drought, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, while the state of Florida may well face rationing should the drought continue.

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