Published: Thursday, July 24, 2008
HAVANA -- Communist Cuba has begun offering private farmers equipment
and other resources on credit along with more land, as President Raul
Castro seeks to reform agriculture by loosening the state's grip.
Just days after a government decree authorizing land grants to farmers,
they are being called to meetings and asked what machinery and other
resources they need to make the best use of it.
"They told us to present our requests immediately for what we need and
that Venezuela, Iran and other countries had given credit to cover the
resources," the treasurer of a private co-operative said by telephone
after attending a meeting this week.
Iran recently agreed to increase trade credits to Cuba from 200 million
euros to 500 million euros, and Venezuela already finances dozens of
factory and farm projects.
Hundreds of farmers were told at the meeting in central Cuba called by
the Association of Small Farmers not to hold back on their requests.
"We can ask for whatever we need. Machinery, spare parts, irrigation
systems, wind mills, land clearing kits, you name it," the co-operative
Decision-making in the sector was recently decentralized, and redundant
state-run companies merged. The state, which purchases 70 per cent to 80
per cent of farm output, has doubled or even tripled the prices it pays.
The remaining 20 per cent to 30 per cent of production is sold on the
Cuba's 250,000 family farmers and 1,000 private co-operatives produce as
much as state farms do on just 25 per cent as much land.