First class produce
The Cuban agricultural produce distributor,
Frutas Selectas, was responsible for ensuring a
supply of fresh fruit and vegetables to the 23
hotels which housed delegations participating in the
Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC)
Summit, recently held in Havana.
company contracts with 646 production
entities across the entire country from
Guantánamo to Pinar del Río, involving
some 3,000 farmers, Juan Carlos
Rodríguez Portuondo explained.
"Just imagine how we had to work; they were
calling us constantly to request produce. One day
they needed arugula. I’ve been in Cuban agriculture
for years and didn’t know this crop existed in Cuba,
but we found it in an organic community garden, here
in the capital," reported Juan Carlos Rodríguez
Portuondo, director of the company.
Frutas Selectas was created some 32 years ago
with the objective of offering specialized service
to the tourism industry. Now with 1,146 employees,
and offices throughout the country, the wholesale
company purchases and sells a variety of
agricultural products, in addition to monitoring
delivery to hotels and restaurants.
The company supplies 259 hotels and 226 other
establishments with 104 products, 90 of which are
guaranteed year-round. Offerings include fresh
produce; plus processed, dried and frozen fruits and
vegetables; preserves, pulp and juice concentrated;
meat of all kinds, including smoked and cured
varieties; individually packaged items; condiments;
charcoal; and natural products used in infusions.
"We also sell fruit tree seedlings; ornamental,
spice and medicinal plants, and offer table
decoration services using fruit – which were much
requested during CELAC, " the director added.
Selectas operates the Tropical Designs
Packing service in Havana which prepares
quality fruit and vegetables for hotels
and restaurants in the capital.
Despite years of experience, the company faces
the challenge of becoming the principal distributor
of agricultural products in the country and meeting
70% of the demand generated by Cuba’s tourism
"Today the company only meets 35% of the demand
and the national conglomerate Frutícola, to which we
belong, covers 79%. We have contracted products to
be able to end 2014 with 40% and, by 2015, we need
to reach 55%, thus gradually increasing our volume
until we reach our goal in 2016."
The goal is to achieve this level of sales with
increased efficiency through the systematic training
of employees in new techniques, developing their
sense of identification with the company and
responsibility to producers.
"Now that farmers have the option of selling
directly to hotels, we must function professionally
to survive; we are obliged to improve," Rodríguez
Still the company enjoys a degree of credibility
gained over the last few years among producers, and
has the advantage of established operations in all
provinces, with the exception of Artemisa and
Mayabeque, and the Isle of Youth special
municipality. (These are served by offices in Havana
and Pinar del Río, respectively.)
4, 2011, the company
established a management team to serve
the tourist industry to better monitor
the delivery process.
According to the executive, there is plenty of
opportunity to further develop the company’s
activity. He is encouraged by unmet demand from
tourism and the country’s policy of expanding
commercial ties with other Latin American and
Caribbean countries, which could translate into more
exports. Likewise, the government’s policy promoting
the replacement of imports with nationally produced
products should mean more opportunities for the
Additional support is forthcoming through a joint
program organized by the ministries of Agriculture
and Tourism to expand the contracting network to
include more producers.
Nevertheless, like all sales and distribution
companies, Frutas Selectas is not exempt from the
effects of the world economic crisis.
"The price of fuel is increasing again. A liter
was 99 cents and now its 1.09 CUC. A tire in 2004,
when I was director of logistics, cost 80 or 100 CUC.
There is no tire on the market now for less than 300
dollars; a cardboard box went from 45 cents to
Despite its shortcomings, including an obsolete
fleet of delivery trucks, Frutas Selectas operates
with a stable, professional workforce, with 35 years
experience, which allows for the company to project
new goals, such as the establishment of the first
wholesale markets in Cuba’s main tourist
A feasibility study is already underway to
evaluate this possibility.
"Arriving everyday in Varadero, on a narrow
peninsula, are 29 trucks from the Ministry of
Agriculture, plus those of other entities. How can
we resolve this problem? We are hoping for a
wholesale market six or seven kilometers outside of
town, where producers could deliver their produce to
be processed and delivered to hotel and restaurant
installations, or those with their own
transportation could collect them right there. Now
we have to wait for approval.
The idea is to offer solutions, supervise and