Sunday, 22 February 2009

La Conchita
Tues 10th Feb

The Conchita brand is something of a national institution with its range of juices, sauces, and canned goods featuring in the majority of Cuban kitchens. Its canning factory is source of pride for the Pinar del Rio and employs around 550 local people.

On arriving at the factory, you’re struck by the political murals, particularly the one at the entrance reminding everyone of the ongoing campaign to free the Miami five. We were met by the director (and a glass of their own pineapple juice) who showed us around the site and introduced us to some of the workers. Unsurprisingly, La Conchita was affected by the massive hurricanes last year and work was continuing on repairing their facilities. However, their crop yield seemed to have increased with the soil apparently becoming more fertile as a result of the weather.

During most of our visits we have asked how the US blockade has affected things. The response tends to be that while the blockade no doubt hampers life and prevents the economy from reaching its potential, the political will is there to ensure that Cuba will not be defeated and we have seen ample evidence of how enterprises and public services are getting by impressively. This was our first visit where we could see it having an impact. The factory is 60 years old and much of its technology is old- the blockade is prevented from importing the necessary equipment for modernising and expanding production.

That said, production is continuing to increase, and with 10% of profits going back into the factory’s facilities (the other 90% to the government) they are confident that they can continue to make gradual changes to keep things ticking over. How much easier things would be though if they didn’t have to operate with their hands tied behind their backs.

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