Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Private farms in Cuba great on paper, not in practice
August 19, 1:56 PM
South America Policy Examiner
Sylvia Longmire


The area of cultivated land in Cuba has dropped 33 percent in the last
decade, and overall agricultural output for the first quarter of 2009 is
down 7.3 percent. Despite almost ideal growing conditions, Cuba produces
only 30 percent of its own food. A significant part of its $11 billion
trade deficit is due to the rising costs of food imports. So, what’s a
communist government with control over large state-owned, inefficient
farms to do without compromising the Revolution? Give away land to
private farmers!


Cuban President Raúl Castro realizes that private farmers can produce
more food, and more efficiently, than the large state-owned farms the
government has favored over the last five decades. According to the
Ethiopian Review, about 250,000 small family farms and 1,100
cooperatives till only about one-quarter of the land, yet still manage
to outperform the state farms, producing almost 60 percent of crops and
livestock, according to official figures.

Cuba says 110,000 people have submitted applications and about 80
percent have been granted since the program began last year, totaling
1.7 million acres. However, the program hasn’t exactly taken off, due
partly to three successive hurricanes that wreaked havoc and destruction
across the island. The program is also running into problems typical of
a communist system—inefficiency and bureaucratic red tape.

“There is too much control and bureaucracy that hinders everything,”
said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a former state economic adviser who is now a
vocal critic of the government. “It’s impregnated with a 50 year-old
operating method that is built on taking orders and is not used to
decentralization. There need to be more incentives.”

While some farmers may be happy to till away for la patria, there is
little (if any) profit to be made from a private farm in Cuba. Farmers
are required to sell the majority of what they reap to the government at
their prices, which are usually half of the market value. Private
farmers also lack direct access to equipment and tools, as well as
fertilizer and pesticides, because they are controlled by the state.

Some farmers make decent money in larger urban markets after they
provide their government quota, but many agree that more independence
from the government works in their favor. Farmers are also expressing
agreement that they need a profit motivation to be more
productive—unusual free-market language in communist Cuba. However, Raúl
Castro has shown considerably more economic pragmatism than his ailing
brother Fidel.

However, it’s difficult to be optimistic about any measures in Cuba
remotely resembling free-market policies. In the early 1990s, Cuba
experienced a period of significant market reforms, largely embraced and
exploited to the fullest by the Cuban people. But, when things started
to get a little too liberal, Castro clamped down hard with state
control, and all reforms were detracted. Hopefully the kinks and
inefficiencies will be worked out so that the Cuban people can truly
benefit from this program, but skepticism in light of 50 years of
history will remain.

VIDEO: Private farms in Cuba great on paper, not in practice (19 August

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