Cuba - loss of trading partner erodes food security

Cuba has seen its economy shrink and levels of undernourishment rise since losing its most important trading partner with the break-up of the former USSR. With much of its agriculture geared to producing commodities for export (primarily sugar and tobacco), Cuba had succeeded in reducing undernourishment to very low levels while relying on trade for more than half of its food.

With the end of Cuba's special trading relationship with the USSR, daily food intake dropped by more than 500 calories per person, mainly because of a steep decline in food imports. Yields for major food crops also dropped because of a lack of imported fertilizer, but Cuba managed to produce nearly comparable quantities by growing food on more land.

The economic decline has increased the number of people relying on subsidies while reducing productivity and food intake for many workers and their families. Continued restrictions on trade with the United States of America add to the country's economic difficulties.

Despite its recent problems, Cuba remains relatively prosperous and well-fed compared to other countries in the Caribbean and Central America. More than half the country's roads are paved and 95 percent of the population have access to safe water.

Since 1993, the Cuban Government has given priority to increasing food production and restructuring industry. Signs have begun to emerge that the new economic model is taking hold and labour markets are recovering. But the transition process is far from complete.

Key indicators, 1980-1996

Cambodia - reaping the dividends of peace
DPR Korea - a bitter harvest
Honduras - economic growth reduces hunger
Morocco - thriving economy boosts food security
Afghanistan - war leaves little ground for crops
Ghana - economic growth fuels rapid gains
Burundi - population growth and conflict