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July 31, 2014

Milk Production in Cuba Struggles to Meet Demand
Government faces problems in efforts to boost self-sufficiency beyond 50 percent

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JICA Expert Satoshi Saito, an agricultural advisor to the Cuban government, recently wrote about milk in Cuba. His essay is summarized below:

Today Cuba’s milk self-sufficiency is 50 percent, meaning it imports half its milk. Milk is a government-controlled product, so the government buys all the milk produced and then distributes it as rations or otherwise.

Milk available to foreigners in the supermarket has been processed using ultra-high temperature sterilization and is not as tasty as what Japanese people are used to. But the supply is unstable and it is not always available. In a developing country where refrigerators are still not widely distributed, milk that has a long shelf life at room temperature is desirable. The milk is priced at about 290 yen per liter, expensive even by Japanese standards.

Powdered milk is also available, but it is all imported.

Cuba distributes one liter of milk per day to every child between the ages of 0 and 7, as well as to the sick and to malnourished elderly persons. However, production has not kept up, so imported powdered milk, lactose, soy yogurt and imported soybeans sometimes are distributed instead. In the past the government distributed milk to children through age 15, but there was not enough milk.

The Cuban government is trying to increase milk production, but a shortage of cattle feed in the dry season and worn out milking machines and refrigeration facilities make it difficult for now.

The system in place to inspect milk for mammitis is inadequate, and medicine to treat it is in short supply. Also, because of a severe shortage of materials, safety inspections of milk are not done cow by cow, but on a batch of milk from several cows mixed together, so it is impossible to determine which cow was infected when there is a positive result. As a result, milk and dairy products possibly affected by mammitis are going to market, meaning a potential public health problem.

In the past, through a Japanese Grant Assistance for Grass-Roots Human Security Project, an agricultural association in the suburbs of Havana was provided with refrigerated milk tanks and milk collection cans, and it was reported that as a result average income increased some 5.6 times. It apparently was an extremely cost-effective project.

More Japanese cooperation like this is needed so that the people of Cuba can drink healthy, safe milk.

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