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Coffee production in Cuba

Updated on December 4, 2012
coffee beans
coffee beans

Cuba is a major coffee drinking nation as well as coffee exporter, but production has fallen drastically in recent years. Cuba’s communist regime pays only a fraction of the coffee beans’ worth to the farmer who has to work hard all year round to produce the coffee beans that are then dried and ground down to produce the coffee that we drink. As a result, more and more people have given up coffee farming to head into the cities for easier work.

Cuba’s 11million population goes through 18,000 tonnes of coffee beans per annum, and in recent years coffee beans have had to be imported to make up the shortfall in production.

In the early 1960s, Cuba produced 60,000 tonnes annually, and this has dropped off to a record low in 2010 of 6,000 tonnes, meaning the government had to pay out $47 million to import the shortfall.

In measures designed to encourage raising its coffee production, Cuba’s National Assembly have implemented new measures which they hope will stimulate the people into taking up coffee farming on a wider scale. President Raul Castro, who took over from his brother Fidel in 2008, has leased abandoned coffee plantations to hundreds of individuals who, it is hoped, will increase output, and tripled the traditionally low price paid to farmers for the coffee bean crop. Additionally there are further bonus incentives involved for those who manage to grow premium grade coffee.

Their 5 year plan hope will increase coffee production to 22,000 tonnes by 2015.

Meanwhile, in an effort to fairly redistribute the coffee to its partisans, coffee rationing has been cut. There will now be no allowance made for babies and children up to 6 years of age, and the 2oz of coffee buyable at a subsidised rate per month, per person with a ration book will once again be mixed with dried peas to stretch it out and help the crop last longer.

As it is only 5 years since pure coffee was distributed, the majority of the population are happy to go back to the pea/coffee blend as that was the taste they were used to.

Coffee mixed with dried peas is more bitter than pure coffee, but the Cubans like their coffee bitter, brewed and served with generous amounts of sugar.

coffee plant
coffee plant

The Cuban government has pumped $5 million into the coffee trade in Cuba in recent years, mainly on the upgrading of outdated equipment.

Cuban coffee is of the highest quality Arabica strain of coffee plants, and their landscape and weather patterns eminently suitable for coffee production.

Before the revolution, owners of coffee plantations were rich men, such is the world demand for good quality coffee beans.

Fidel Castro took the land off those people and put it under state control.

Many Cubans exiled themselves, never to return, while many others are waiting on their opportunity to go back and regain control of ancestral lands with perhaps one day, the return of capitalism.

Many coffee plantations fell out of usage over the years owing to the long hours and hard work, for so little return from the communist state.

It is hoped that the new initiatives introduced by the new president, Raul Castro, may return those plantations, which exist mainly in the mountainous parts of Cuba, to full production. leaving the country a healthy trade profit when exporting, instead of the current deficit.


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    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 6 years ago from UK

      Thanks Klara for all your comments and especially for telling me that the Cubans are not happy at drinking the pea-blend. Maybe it was propaganda that suggested they preferred the pea-blend, having gotten used to it. I did a lot of research into Cuba before I wrote these hubs and got my info mainly from news sites. Good to know the truth!

    • profile image

      klarawieck 6 years ago

      Izzy, I came back to these articles once again. They are very well written and I like the way you state the facts without choosing sides. This, of course, is the job of a great writer. Congratulations!

      On the other hand, I will clarify one thing that I'm qualified to comment about since I was around when Cuban coffee became extinct in the island and people started mixing it with toasted peas. The majority of the population is not happy to drink this pea/coffee blend. In fact, when those of us that are in exile visit our families in Cuba, that is one of the things they ask us to bring - Cuban coffee, which of course is not exported from Cuba, but it's farmed in the Dominican Republic, but it's of much better quality than the pea/coffee mix that is available to Cubans.

      Some of my most cherished childhood memories took place at my grandmother's house, in Matanzas, Cuba, where she had a medium-sized vegetable garden and coffee plantation. We used to gather the beans, toast them outside in a firepit, and then grind them. It was a family effort and we loved drinking that pure coffee taste, which was even part of a child's diet, as strong as it is.

      This has been voted up. Great article!

    • spirit929 profile image

      spirit929 6 years ago from Upstate NY somewhere over the rainbow

      Great info!

    • IzzyM profile image

      IzzyM 6 years ago from UK

      As for as I know they only mix the peas with the coffee for the internal market, not for export. Despite their fall in production, they are still exporting but only a fraction of the crop - I am assuming they have contractual obligations.

    • chspublish profile image

      chspublish 6 years ago from Ireland

      Great info here. Coffee mixed with peas? Do they really do that? And other world coffee producers do similiar things?