US embargo leaves Cuban farmers waiting for modernity

Nowhere in Cuba are the effects of the continuing US economic embargo more apparent than the countryside, where farming cooperatives rely on outdated tools and processing plants can't obtain spare parts, Will Grant reports.

Cubans are renowned for their sweet tooth.

This is hardly surprising on an island famed for its sugarcane and abundant in tropical fruits. And few of those fruits are more popular in Cuba than the guava.

Whether filling their favourite sugary treat - guava pastries - or turned into jams and preserves, Cubans consume tens of thousands of tonnes of guava every year.

Said by generations of Cuban grandmothers to have curative and digestive qualities, guavas thrive in the perfect balance of heat and rain found in Mayabeque province, outside Havana.

Finca Santa Rosa in the verdant municipality of Quivican is an especially good spot.

"We're looking for fruit that is mature and has a good colour," says Onil Beltran, the owner of Finca Santa Rosa, as he picks the ripest guavas from his rows of trees.

'Business is good'

The seasonal rains have left small piles of rejected fruit rotting on the ground. But recently the downpours have eased enough to allow Onil and his team to gather scores of the lime-green globes in buckets.

Even in the thick countryside of Quivican, the growth of private enterprise in Cuba is apparent. Mr Beltran's family owns around 50 hectares in total, employing 20 people as part of a state-approved private cooperative system.

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