Cuba reports little progress 5 years into agricultural reform
TUESDAY, 30 JULY 2013 21:42
HAVANA--Agriculture in Cuba remains in crisis and the country is still
dependent on imports five years into Raul Castro's presidency and
efforts to reform the sector, according to a government report released
The communist-run nation is investing in some crops to reduce imports
and others to boost exports, even as it gradually loosens the state's
grip on all food production and distribution in favor of individual
initiative and the law of the market.
Cash-strapped Cuba imports some 60 percent of the food it consumes at a
cost of around $2 billion annually, mainly bulk cereals and grains such
as rice, corn, soy and beans, as well as other items such as powdered
milk and chicken. Last year, $500 million of the imports came from the
United States under an exception to the trade embargo that allows
agricultural sales for cash.
Unprocessed rice production was up almost 50 percent at 642,000 tonnes
in 2012, compared with 436,000 tonnes in 2008 when Castro stepped in for
his ailing brother Fidel, and production of beans rose during the same
period by 28 percent to 127,000 tonnes, the only significant progress
Cuba and Brazil have been working for a number of years to grow soy for
the first time on the Caribbean island, alternating the crop with corn.
But there was no mention of soy in the report by the National Statistics
Office (http://www.one.cu/aec2012.htm), and corn production increased by
just 30,000 tonnes to 360,000 tonnes during the five-year period.
Castro has decentralized decision making, leased vacant land to 180,000
would-be farmers, allowed all agricultural producers to sell more of
their goods on the open market (47 percent in 2012) and raised the
prices the state pays for produce. Yet tonnage for root and garden
vegetables and bananas and plantains has stagnated at around 5 million
The state owns 80 percent of the land and leases 70 percent of that to
farmers and cooperatives. The other 20 percent of land is owned by
private family farmers and their cooperatives and produces a far higher
percentage of the nation's food.
Export crops, from coffee and citrus to tobacco and sugar cane declined
over the last five years, according to the report. Livestock fared no
better with most categories either stagnating or declining, except milk,
which increased by 8 percent to 604,000 tonnes.
During the period three major hurricanes hit Cuba, where less than 10
percent of the farm land has adequate irrigation and drainage.
Source: "The Daily Herald -Cuba reports little progress 5 years into
agricultural reform" -