Daily Briefing – October 18, 2017

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A daily look at deals, events and transactions of note for trade and investment in Cuba.

Food production may decline in 2017: Cuba’s agricultural output showed little growth in the first half of this year, but may decline by the end of the year because of damage from Hurricane Irma, according to a government report. Root and vegetable production was down 1.1 percent through June, the most productive time of the year. Grain production declined with the exception of rice. Citrus fruit, milk, and egg production fell, while non-citrus fruit production improved. Livestock was mixed. Agricultural production has stagnated in recent years partly because of severe drought and less financial inputs. Hurricane Irma significantly flattened and flooded crops in six provinces. (Reuters)

Visa confusion: Cubans who were eager to apply for U.S. visas say they are bewildered by the State Department’s announcement that it will transfer current immigrant application proceedings to the U.S. Embassy in Bogota, Colombia. The State Department made the announcement after it withdrew all non-emergency staff from its Havana embassy in response to mysterious “attacks” that harmed American workers. Traveling to Colombia for a visa interview is prohibitively expensive for many Cubans. Colombia also requires Cubans to enter the country with a visa in their passport, representing yet another challenge. (El Nuevo Herald)

When the state doesn’t show up, sell in the informal market: A guava producer in Artemisa province said he took a risk by selling his goods on the informal market after the state didn’t show up to buy his crops. He said he made the decision in order to earn some money before his guavas spoiled. Many farmers are illegally selling their goods in rural areas even though the police insist most of their food must be delivered to state entities. Farmers typically earn more by selling goods on the informal market, but they run the risk of receiving a fine. (14ymedio)

A delicate political transition: Whoever replaces Raúl Castro in February 2018 will face the challenges of declining oil shipments from Venezuela, deteriorating relations with the U.S., a chronic shortage of hard currency, and the public’s impatience with the slow pace of economic modernization. The election cycle, which begins on Nov. 26 when Cubans will go to the polls to elect 168 municipal assemblies, will likely end with Castro’s inner circle choosing his replacement. First Vice President Miguel Díaz-Canel appears to be the most likely successor. A leaked video shows Díaz-Canel backing a litany of conservative positions. However, he has also spoken out against censorship of an independent blog, so it’s not clear how close his leadership style may resemble the Castros. (World Politics Review)

Making wine in Cienfuegos: Orelvis Rodriguez, a former farmer in the province of Cienfuegos, started making wine five years ago after a friend told him about the world of wines. Today, he has his own winery that won the Grand Prize at the National Wine Festival in February. He makes his wines with Caribbean grapes and several other tropical fruits. Cienfuegos produced wine in four different plants before 1959, but production stopped after the Revolution because the factories were needed to manufacture more essential cooking goods. (Xinhua)

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