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Castroism exploits cattle ranchers

Castroism exploits cattle ranchers

Castroism exploits cattle ranchers. Beef in Cuba: a round business for the state monopoly.

LAS TUNAS, Cuba. ─ "The cattle rancher is paid for his animals with devalued Cuban pesos, while the meat from those same cattle is sold to Cubans charging them U.S. dollars," we pointed out in the article Cattle, ranchers and the beef route in Cuba, published by CubaNet last April 19.

To corroborate that statement, we now bring to our readers some figures from the list of prices for the purchase of cattle by the state monopoly. We also show other numbers that indicate the cost and sale price, not only of the meat from these cattle in stores that only accept U.S. dollars as a means of payment (the so-called MLC stores), but also of other meats such as imported chicken, which is also subject to usury. 

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Official Gazette No. 31 Extraordinary of last April 16 published the maximum price of cattle and buffalo that the State will pay to cattle breeders, in live cattle and cattle destined for industry or state slaughterhouses. There is nothing extraordinary about the prices, although they were published in a gazette so labeled. In reality, except for technical and monetary specifications, they are almost the same prices that the State has been paying to cattle breeders for several years, trying to increase, unsuccessfully, the national herd.

In the case of bovine bulls between 18 and 24 months, "special" category, with more than 400 kilograms of live weight ─that which the U.S. rancher usually calls "prime" (excellent category)─, the price is 40.02 Cuban pesos per kilogram. At the official exchange rate of 24 pesos to one dollar, this rate is equivalent to 1.66 U.S. dollars. Regarding "prime" beef, in the book Ganadería Productiva, authors Walter H. Peters and Robert H. Grummer say: "beef must have a wide and well-developed body, covered with thick muscles, a thin skeleton and fine meat to the touch; cows, oxen and bulls never deserve such a high grade".


Classification of cattle according to the amount of meat (Photo by the author).

The first category torete, 18 to 24 months old, with standing weight between 340 and 400 kilograms ─which the rancher in the United States calls "choice" (selecto, escogido, de primera calidad)─, the State monopoly pays it to the cowboy at 25.76 Cuban pesos, something like 1.07 U.S. dollars. Of select beef cattle, Peters and Grummer say, "the cattle will have to be, in all respects, of nearly as good a quality as befits the superior grade, and although it admits of some defects, it demands that the animal appear uniformly fat, smooth, fine boned and firm fleshed."

A torete of between 300 and 339 kilograms live weight ─which does not have to be "so uniformly fat", so broad of muscles, "nor of such fine skeleton", according to the cited authors, and which in the U.S. beef cattle trade is classified as "good"─ the Cuban nomenclature classifies it as "second category" and pays per kilogram at 22.54 Cuban pesos, about 90 U.S. cents.


Top round (Cañada de res)(Photo by the author).

I will not exhaust the reader by outlining the remaining classifications of beef cattle, suffice it to mention these figures from technical manuals: a beef of about 400 kilograms live weight will yield a little more than 126 kilograms of clean meat, of which a little more than 88 kilograms of prime meat and about 38 kilograms of second category meat, generally used in the production of minced or smoked meats.

Prime beef is known as: fillet, kidney, ball, boliche, palomilla, cañada, stew.


Beef ball(Bola de res) (Author's photo)

Classified as by-products, but which also enter the meat market ─and in Cuba much more─ are organs such as tongue, heart, belly, liver, calf, bones and feet. A Cuban who can buy a few kilograms of legs, bones or cow belly, will be happy. Viscera, such as heart or liver, were sold for CUC and today it is difficult to find them even with dollars.

So, one might ask: if the State buys beef from Cuban peasants through a rigorous classification for which it pays different prices... Does it also sell the meat for U.S. dollars according to how historically the American rancher classified his beef cattle as "prime", "choice" or "good"?


Top sirloin(Palomilla de res) (Photo by the author)

Well, no. You won't find those market details in Cuba. If in civilized countries it is common to know the breed of the cattle that produced the meat you are going to eat, in case you have the good fortune to buy beef, you will have to be satisfied with knowing if it is bola, boliche, stew... This, for the purpose of payment, because who knows if the meat, although classified as prime, will be really soft and juicy, special bull, or tough, hard as a rail, from a cow or an ox.

Managers and storekeepers of stores operating with freely convertible currency (MLC) do know the cost prices and selling prices of the products they sell. They know ─because it says so on the "Transfer issued" invoice from the main store to a store─ that, for example, the cost price of a kilogram of beef palomilla is $ 4.39 and that that kilogram of meat leaves a profit to the state monopoly of $ 3.61 U.S. dollars.

In other words: a certain small town store received one of these mornings of shortages 12.24 kilograms of palomilla beef, which, according to cost price, was imported at $53.73. Sold that meat at $8.00, it returned $97.92, a net profit of $44.19, which at the exchange rate of 24 Cuban pesos per U.S. dollar is 1,060 pesos, enough for the State to buy from the Cuban peasant about 12 kilograms of palomilla something like 41 kilograms of prime beef on the hoof.

The plundering of Cubans by the state monopoly is not only with beef. As an example, let's take a package of one kilogram of half a chicken breast, skinless and boneless, from the Perdix company, with a cost price of $2.30, sold in MLC stores for $6.55. This represents a profit of $ 4.25 per kilogram, with a net profit of $ 4 250 on a ton of chicken meat that cost $ 2 300. In view of this situation, it is useful to ask: Who is blocking Cubans more, the U.S. government with the embargo or Castro-communism with the plundering of its monopoly?

Alberto MendezAuthor: Alberto Méndez Castelló (Puerto Padre, Oriente, Cuba 1956)
Graduate in Law and Criminal Sciences, graduated in Operational Management. Although he was an officer of the Ministry of the Interior from a very young age, professional inconsistencies with his ethical thinking made him leave that institution by his own decision in 1989 to devote himself to agriculture, literature and journalism. Nominated for the Novel Prize "Plaza Mayor 2003" in San Juan Puerto Rico, and the International Short Story Prize "Max Aub 2006" in Valencia, Spain. His novel "Bucaneros" can be found on Amazon. 

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