Cuba wants private farmers to grow extra crops to reap hard currency
By Ray Sanchez | Sun-Sentinel.com
8:04 AM EDT, April 2, 2008
HAVANA – In a move that could generate hard currency from exports, Cuba
is inviting private farmers to plant tobacco, coffee and other crops on
unused state land.
Few details were available but state television said 51 percent of
Cuba's arable land is under-utilized.
Under a program started last year, the state is transferring some of
this land to individual farmers in an attempt to make more products
available to all Cubans.
The change is part of efforts by Cuban leader Raul Castro to further
decentralize the agricultural sector.
In the 1960s, the state encouraged private farmers to transfer their
land over to the government or become part of collective farms.
Cooperatives control 35 percent of arable land on the communist island
while producing 60 percent of the Cuba's agriculture.
"Everyone who wants to produce tobacco will be given land to produce
tobacco, and the same with coffee," said Orlando Lugo, president of
Cuba's farmers association.
Since formally taking over the presidency from his ailing brother Fidel
Castro last month, Raul Castro has lifted the ban on the sale of
computers, DVD players and other electronics.
In addition, Cubans who can afford it can now stay at tourist hotels and
buy a cell phone. He promised in his inaugural speech to free Cubans
from many of the unnecessary restrictions that circumscribed their lives.