The Agricultural Sector and the International Economy:  Challenges and Opportunities for Cuba and the United States‌

Cuba Ag1

This project builds on and expands a collaborative research program on Cuban agriculture initiated between UF/IFAS and the University of Havana in 1994.  The overarching purpose of the research is to identify and study a broad range of social, economic, technical and biophysical factors affecting agricultural production and distribution in Cuba, relevant aspects in Florida, and trade between the United States and Cuba.   The project offers US and Cuban scholars the opportunity to research these or other related themes in the counterpart country so they can share the resulting information in their home country. 

The specific objective of this project is to research Cuba’s agricultural and agro-industrial sectors, including the associated financial, transport and other infrastructure, in the context of their efforts to generate agricultural exports and become better integrated into the global economy.  Research will use a systems approach based on specific examples of vegetable crops, citrus and tropical fruit.  Other crops may be included in the future.

The prioritized core research areas are:

  • Sharing scientific knowledge to sustainably control pests and diseases that threaten Cuban and Florida agriculture. 
  • Application of scientific knowledge to overcome environmental and operational limitations on agricultural production: technical, regulatory and socio-economic responses.
  • Current technologies and socio-economic organization, including financial services, found in the Cuban and Florida agricultural production and processing value chains.
  • Opportunities, competitive challenges and the prospects for productive linkages between Cuban and US agricultural sectors.

Confronting insect pest and disease threats to agriculture

Cuba Ag2

Cuba and Florida are neighbors, geographically separated only by the 90-mile wide Florida Straits.  Both economies rely heavily on agriculture and they share many of the same challenges or limitations to agricultural production and natural resource systems sustainability.  The geographic proximity, coupled with U.S. exports of food and agricultural product to Cuba,[1] and expanding travel opportunities between Cuba and Florida mean that both the United States and Cuba could increasingly share problems of pathogens carried across the Straits by winds, ships or travelers.  Both Florida and Cuba have strong scientific communities which are attempting to address serious threats to crops in their respective countries.  Citrus Greening (HLB) and Sugarcane Orange Rust are examples of diseases currently affecting key crops in both countries.  Scientific exchanges should help the agricultural industries in both countries better understand and combat these and other diseases.

Current technology and organization of agricultural production and distribution

Cuba Ag3

In Florida and Cuba, farmers grow some of the same crops, yet the systems of financing, producing and distributing those crops tend to be very different. Cuba’s banking and monetary system has undergone important changes over the last two decades, and foreign investment rules have been significantly liberalized. Production technologies in Cuba are highly diverse, ranging from nation-wide programs promoting small-holder agro-ecology, to large scale, high-input commercial farming projects.  Organizationally, nearly all Cuban producers are smallholders, most are members of cooperatives, and some cooperatives function as collectively-run large farms. Distribution of agricultural outputs is gradually shifting away from state-centralization and national-level planning toward internal markets and integration into international distribution chains. Understanding the technological, organizational and financial characteristics of each agricultural system will help farmers, importers, investors and thought leaders in each location make the best of the growing opportunities for exchange.  

Application of scientific knowledge to production impediments ‌

Cuba Ag4

Agriculture everywhere is subject to limitations due to climate, pests, soils, management and/or a variety of system-imposed bottlenecks. Although some exceptions exist, much of Cuban agriculture has suffered from decades of low productivity.  Even relatively successful Cuban farms may not be producing at internationally accepted levels of efficiency and quality. Multidisciplinary field studies of representative agricultural production systems will help guide research, extension and public policy to support improved production outcomes, within environmental and social constraints.   

Opportunities, competitive challenges and the prospects for productive linkages

Cuba Ag5

On December 17, 2014 Cuba and the United States announced their intention to pursue the resumption of diplomatic relations.  However, lifting the embargo will require the approval of the U.S. House of Representatives,   the Senate and the President.  Because of the similarities between Cuba’s historical agricultural production patterns and those of Florida, expansion of trade between the U.S. and Cuba, whenever it does occur, will have profound effects on agriculture on both sides of the Florida Straits.  To the extent that scientists, agricultural and business leaders, and policy makers in the United States and Cuba can work together in an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding, they should be able to strengthen the positive effects of increased trade in both countries.  This research project represents a superior opportunity to develop the science, the trust and the understanding needed to benefit agriculture in both Florida and Cuba as trade inevitably expands.

Seed funding for the project has been provided by the Latin American Agribusiness Development Corporation S.A.  During 2014-15 the project held three planning meetings at UF.  UH research team visitors included Dr. Lazaro Peña (co-coordinator of the project and Director of the Center for Research on the International Economy, CIEI), Dr. Elda Molina and Dr. Armando Nova (both of CIEI), and Dr. Anicia García and Ms. Betsy Anaya (both of the Center for the Study of the Cuban Economy, CEEC).

Project Manager:  Dr. Fred Royce, 


  1. Project Working Papers
    • Working Paper 1: The "Special Relationship" and the Challenge of Diversifying a Sugar Economy: Cuban Exports of Fruits and Vegetables to the United States, 1902 to 1962 (by Carmen Diana Deere, June 2015)
    • Working Paper 2: El Financiamiento a la Agricultura en Cuba (by Elda Molina Díaz, June 2015)
    • Working Paper 3: La experiencia de los cítricos en Jagüey Grande como caso de éxito (byBetsy Anaya Cruz and Anicia García Álvarez, September 2015)
    • Working Paper 4: Conviviendo con el HLB: la diversificación de la industria citrícola en Cuba (by Betsy Anaya. Carmen Diana Deere, Emilio Fernandez, Anicia García, Gloria González, Berta Lina Muiño, Armando Nova and Frederick S. Royce.  July 2016)
    • Working Paper 5: Una visión de la Sanidad Vegetal en la República de Cuba (by Berta Lina Muiño, Emilio Fernández, Gloria González and Marlene Veitía.  July 2016)
    • Working Paper 6: Provisioning Cuba’s Private Restaurants: Insights on the Impact of the Expanding Tourism Industry (Carmen Diana Deere and Frederick S. Royce. July 2017) 
  2. Trip Reports

[1] Made possible by U.S. passage of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act in 2000.