Development of agricultural output of Cuba in 2015 US$ since 1961
A sugarcane plantation in rural Cuba

Agriculture in Cuba has played an important part in the economy for several hundred years. Today, it contributes less than 10% to the gross domestic product (GDP), but it employs about 20% of the working population. About 30% of the country's land is used for crop cultivation.[1]


Cuba's agricultural history can be divided into five periods, reflecting Cuban history in general:

During each of these periods, agriculture in Cuba has confronted unique obstacles.

Agriculture in Spanish colonial Cuba resulted in rapid deforestation.[2]: 21  Naval and agricultural enterprises both needed wood and in 1815 the Spanish Crown gave sugar planters the right to clear land at will.[2]: 21  Large amounts of forests were cleared to provide land for growing sugarcane and top use wood for energy in mills.[2]: 21 

Before the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the agricultural sector in Cuba was largely oriented towards and dominated by the US economy. After the Revolution, the revolutionary government nationalised farmland, and the Soviet Union supported Cuban agriculture by paying premium prices for Cuba's main agricultural product, sugarcane, and by delivering fertilizers. Sugar was bought by the Soviets at more than five times the market price. 95% of its citrus crop was exported to the Comecon countries. The Soviets provided Cuba with 63% of its food imports and 90% of its petrol.[3]

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Cuban agricultural sector faced a very difficult period. The sugar industry was one of the more highly mechanized sectors of the Cuban economy, and its machinery came from the Soviet Union, Czechoslovakia, and East Germany.[2]: 80  After the disintegration of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, spare parts became increasingly hard to come by.[2]: 80 

Cuba had to rely on sustainable farming methods. Agricultural production fell by 54% between 1989 and 1994.[4] The government aimed to strengthen agricultural biodiversity by making a greater range of varieties of seed available to farmers.[5] In the 1990s, the government prioritized food production and put focus on small farmers.[3] From 1994, it allowed farmers to sell their surplus product directly to the population. This was the first move to lift the state's monopoly on food distribution.[6] Due to the shortage in artificial fertilizers and pesticides, Cuba's agricultural sector largely turned organic,[7] with the organopónicos playing a major role in this transition.

Today, there are several forms of agricultural production, including cooperatives such as UBPCs (Unidad Básica de Producción Cooperativa) and CPAs (Cooperativa de Producción Agropecuaria).

Urban agriculture

Main article: Organopónicos

Due to the shortage of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, a popular movement of urban agriculture developed.[2]: 5  In 2002, 35,000 acres (140 km2) of urban gardens produced 3.4 million metric tons of food. Current estimates are as high as 81,000 acres (330 km2).[8] In Havana, 90% of the city's fresh produce come from local urban farms and gardens. In 2003, more than 200,000 Cubans worked in the expanding urban agriculture sector.[9]

The emphasis on urban agriculture, particularly since 2021, has resulted in increased knowledge-sharing networks among small farmers.[2]: 3 



Unprocessed cassava root

Some 260,000 acres (1,100 km2) are planted with cassava.[10] Cassava is native to the Latin American and Caribbean region[11] and is grown in almost every country of the region. Cuba is the second largest producer of cassava in the Caribbean with a production of 300,000 t (2001).[12] However, the yield per hectare is the lowest of all Caribbean countries. Most of Cuba's production is used directly for fresh consumption.[13] Part of the cassava is processed to sorbitol in a plant near Florida, Central Cuba.[14]


Cuba is the world's third largest producer of grapefruit. Sixty percent of the citrus produce is oranges, 36% grapefruit.[4] Citrus production and processing was the first foreign investment in Cuba's agricultural sector, in 1991, the participation of an enterprise from Israel, the Jagüey Grande area, approximately 140 km (90 mi) east of Havana.[15] The products are mainly marketed in Europe under the brand name Cubanita.


Main article: Coffee production in Cuba


Consumption of potatoes in Cuba amounts to 25 kg (55 lb) per year. Potatoes are mainly consumed as French fries. Potato production areas (in total 37,000 acres or 150 square kilometres) are concentrated in the western part of Cuba. The main variety grown in Cuba is the Désirée.[16] Seed potatoes are partly produced locally. Some 40,000 metric tons of seed potatoes are imported annually from New Brunswick, Canada and the Netherlands.[17]


Rice is a staple in Cuban diet; one of the main dishes is rice and beans. Rice in Cuba is mostly grown along the western coast. There are two crops per year. Most rice farms are state-owned or co-operatives.[18] Production is limited by the shortage of water and, similar to other industries in Cuba, lack of fertilizer and modern agricultural technology. The yield per hectare remains lower than the average of Central American and Caribbean countries.[19] Therefore, Cuba has been a major importer of rice. Recently, imports approached 500,000 tonnes of milled rice per year.


See also: Cuban sugar economy

Cuban sugar mill, ca. 1922.

Cuba was once the world's largest sugarcane exporter. Until the 1960s, the US received 33% of its sugarcane imports from Cuba. During the cold war, Cuba's sugar exports were bought with subsidies from the Soviet Union. After the collapse of this trade arrangement, coinciding with a collapse in sugar prices, two thirds of sugar mills in Cuba closed. 100,000 workers lost their jobs.[20] However, the sugar production in the cane sugar mills has fallen from approximately 8 million metric tons to 3.2 million metric tons in the 2015 period.[citation needed][clarification needed] A rise in sugar prices beginning in 2008, stimulated new interest in sugar. Production in 2012–2013 was estimated at 1.6–1.8 million tonnes. 400,000 tonnes is exported to China and 550,000–700,000 for domestic consumption.[21]


See also: Cuban cigars

Tobacco leaves in a drying shed

Cuba has the second largest area planted with tobacco of all countries worldwide.[22] Tobacco production in Cuba has remained about the same since the late 1990s. Cigars are a famous Cuban product worldwide and almost the whole production is exported.[23] The center of Cuban tobacco production is the Pinar del Río Province. Tobacco is the third largest source of hard currency for Cuba.[24] The income derived from the cigars is estimated at US$200 million.[25] The two main varieties grown in Cuba are Corojo and Criollo. 85% of the tobacco grown in Cuba is produced by National Association of Small Farmers members.[26] In the United States, Cuban cigars hold a special cachet, because they are banned as contraband in accordance with the United States embargo against Cuba. A number of shops catering to American tourists sell Cuban cigars in Canada.

Tropical fruits

Plantains and bananas account for 47% and 24% of the local production respectively. Both are only produced for domestic consumption.[27] Other tropical fruits produced in Cuba are mango, Papaya, Mamey Sapote, pineapple, avocado, guava, coconut, and annonaceae (custard apple family).

Cuban Exports

Cuba's exports totaled $2.63 billion in 2017.[28] Main exports include cigars, raw sugar, nickel products, rum and zinc.[28]

See also


  1. ^ Britannica Online
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Cederlöf, Gustav (2023). The Low-Carbon Contradiction: Energy Transition, Geopolitics, and the Infrastructural State in Cuba. Critical environments: nature, science, and politics. Oakland, California: University of California Press. ISBN 978-0-520-39313-4.
  3. ^ a b "Cuba's agricultural revolution an example to the world". Andrew Buncombe
  4. ^ a b[permanent dead link]/
  5. ^ – Cuba Agriculture History Archived April 26, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  6. ^ The New York Times, January 10, 1995, "Cuba's Agriculture Shows Improvements"
  7. ^ "A Different Kind of Green Revolution in Cuba". Hal Hamilton Archived January 10, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Seattle Post-Intelligencer
  9. ^ Cuban Ministry of Agriculture Archived May 20, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ Cuba's Non-Sugar Agriculture Archived July 6, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-09-11. Retrieved 2008-02-27.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  12. ^ Foodmarket Exchange Archived March 9, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ FAO Corporate Document Repository Archived March 3, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ EVD - The Netherlands Archived May 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  15. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-02-27. Retrieved 2008-02-25.((cite web)): CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. ^ World Potato Atlas[permanent dead link]
  17. ^ Cuba works toward seed potato deal with North Dakota in: The Bismarck Archived June 1, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  18. ^ FAO Corporate Document Repository Archived November 23, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ FAO Corporate Document Repository Archived December 17, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  20. ^ "Cuba reopens sugar mills after price rise". BBC News. 22 May 2013.
  21. ^ "Cuban Sugar Sector Aims for Recovery in 2013". 9 January 2013. Archived from the original on 2016-08-12. Retrieved 2013-05-22.
  22. ^ Cuba Archived April 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, Encyclopedia of the Nations
  23. ^ "MSN encarta". Archived from the original on 2009-10-29.
  24. ^ Cubanet Archived September 21, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  25. ^ CNN: The color and complexity of Cuba’s cigars April 9, 2007
  26. ^ Sinclair, Minor; Martha Thompson (2007). "Agricultural Crisis and Transformation". A Contemporary Cuba Reader: Reinventing the Revolution. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-7425-5507-5.
  27. ^ USDA 2004 Archived October 14, 2016, at the Wayback Machine
  28. ^ a b "Cuba". 10 May 2022.