Jose Martí and the IDEA of Nations
The Carribean Islands and Latin America import 6% of their rice supply annually (a collective annual cost of $300 million USD). The proposed institute (I.D.E.A. de las N.C.L.) is an urban roof garden innovating resilient germplasm with improved sustainability for locally cultivatable rice. It is also a utilitarian symbol of the unification of the Caribbean nations, working in the defense of the absolutely critical ecologies of rice. The following excerpt is from Eric Pulver’s insightful white paper written under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations:
“Rice is grown in 26 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean region (LAC), which produce over 22 million tonnes (Mt) of paddy per year. Even at today’s historically low grain prices, rice production provides approximately US$4.5 billion of income to the thousands of rice growers in the region. An approximately equal amount of revenue is generated in rice processing, distribution and retail sales. While significant improvements have been witnessed in rice production in the LAC, regional demand still surpasses production. The region has a net deficit of nearly 1 Mt of milled rice annually, resulting in a net outflow of revenue from the region of over US$300 million a year. There are 14 countries or states in the Caribbean with little potential for domestic rice production and they will continue to be rice importers. However, there are another 14 countries which are deficit in rice but with the necessary natural resources to support rice production. It is these latter 14 countries that are of prime concern, and with an appropriate development strategy combined with assistance from the international donor community, they have the potential to increase production to satisfy national demand.
“Cuba is a major importer of rice and in the last few years annual rice imports have approached 500 000 tonnes of milled rice. Rice production in Cuba is limited due to water shortages and access to essential inputs and other technologies. Imports could soar if consumers had increased purchasing power. Overall production has been on the decline for several years with relatively low yields of 3 t/ha; suitable land and water availability limit expansion of the cultivation area. Recently the Cuban Government has permitted private production on formerly state-owned farms, but growers have limited access to essential inputs, such as fertilizer; consequently, yields remain low.
“Haiti is the third largest importer of rice in the Caribbean. Haiti has a small irrigated rice area (approx. 50 000 ha), but water shortages, limited access to improved germplasm and use of rudimentary crop management practices mean that yields remain low at 2 t/ha. Haiti is a major recipient of United States rice provided via food assistance programmes. It is doubtful whether Haiti can significantly increase national production in order to compete with cheap and highly subsidized United States rice.”
- E.L. Pulver (Strategy for sustainable rice production in Latin America and the Caribbean)