Posted on Wednesday, 02.04.09
Cuba distributes more than 45,000 land parcels
HAVANA — Communist Cuba has distributed more than 45,000 parcels of
unused state land to private farmers and other citizens, asking them to
revitalize an agriculture sector crippled by decades of government
mismanagement, state news media said Monday.
The government had received 96,416 requests for fallow state land as of
Jan. 22, encompassing more than 1.6 million acres (658,000 hectares),
Deputy Agriculture Minister Alcides Lopez told provincial legislators,
according to the Communist Party newspaper Granma.
A total of 45,518 of those requests were approved, the newspaper added,
without specifying the total amount of land turned over.
Under an agriculture-reform program begun in September, the state
retains its title to the land but leases it to approved individual
farmers, cooperatives and other Cubans who want to try farming.
Landless Cubans can apply for about 33 acres (13 hectares), while
established farmers can increase current holdings to 100 acres (40
hectares). Private citizens qualify for leases of up to 10 years,
renewable for 10 more, while cooperatives and companies can seek 25-year
The Ministry of Agriculture and the National Center for Land Control,
which has offices in 169 cities and towns across Cuba, decide who
receives land and which plots are eligible for redistribution.
About a third of the 96,416 land requests were denied because
petitioners had sought use of land ''not classified as idle,'' Lopez
said, according to Granma.
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 state planners, output has dwindled. About half of the
country's arable land is now underused, according to the government, and
just 29 percent is fully exploited on state farms.
The land reform is Cuba's biggest in decades, and was designed by the
government of Raul Castro, who succeeded Fidel 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.