Cuba distributes farm land to boost crops, food
The Associated Press
Published: February 6, 2009
HAVANA: Cuba's communist government announced Friday it has turned over
to small farmers fallow land equivalent to six times the area of New
York City and predicted a rebound in agricultural output this year.
In a full-page story on farming in the Communist Party newspaper Granma,
officials announced the distribution of 1,827 square miles (4,730 sq.
kilometers) of unused state land to Cubans with agricultural experience
or other private citizens.
The newspaper previously reported that as of Jan. 22, the government had
distributed 45,518 parcels of land without specifying the total area.
The land redistribution is Cuba's biggest in decades and was designed by
the government of Raul Castro, who succeeded brother Fidel Castro as
head of state nearly a year ago. He is under increasing pressure to
slash food imports, which cost the island more than $2 billion in 2008.
Thousands of small farmers kept their plots after Fidel Castro took
power in 1959 and still grow much of Cuba's food. But at large farms
taken over by communist planners, output has dwindled. About half of the
country's arable land is now underused.
Today in Business with Reuters
U.S. jobless rate jumps to 16-year high
U.S. decides on how to save banks
Global markets finish the week with strong gains
Amid agricultural reform efforts, three major hurricanes in 2008
devastated crops across the island.
Granma reported that output for this year, not including sugar carne,
will increase by "12 percent, some 400,000 tons."
According to the National Office of Statistics, however, Cuba produced
4.7 million tons of fruits and vegetables in 2008, excluding sugar cane.
By that measure, a 12 percent increase for this year would require an
extra 564,000 tons of produce — quite a bit more than 400,000 tons.
The reasons for the discrepancy was not clear, and Agricultural Ministry
officials were not available.