Increased Food Production a Matter of Cuba's "National Security".
Ray Sanchez | Direct from Havana
7:44 AM EDT, April 8, 2008
A senior Communist Party official said increasing domestic food
production in Cuba was a "matter of national security."
The comments, published Monday in the weekly Trabajadores newspaper,
underscored efforts by Raul Castro's government to decentralize the
state-dominated agricultural sector in order to improve efficiency and
cut red tape.
"Producing food in Cuba is a question of national security, given
runaway inflation and scarcity on the world market," Maria del Carmen
Concepcion, a member of the party's highest body, the secretariat, said
during a meeting with farmers and their representatives.
Cuba last year spent about $1.6 billion on food imports, which made up
84 percent of the food products offered to the public at subsidized prices.
In the six weeks since formally assuming the presidency, Raul Castro has
sought to decentralize agriculture, increase payments to producers and
make more state land available to farmers and ranchers.
In a speech last summer in the central agricultural province of
Camaguey, Raul Castro called for "structural" changes that would allow
enable the island to produce more food and rely less on imports.
"We face the imperative of making our land produce more, and the land is
there to be tilled," Castro said.
In the meeting with farmers, Concepcion heard complaints about large
quantities of milk that are lost each day because of inadequate
transportation, and farm equipment that lies idle due to a lack of
Cuba has about 250,000 family farms and 1,100 private cooperatives in an
economy that is 90 percent state controlled.
They till less than a third of the land, and more than half of Cuba's
arable land lies fallow.