Off the "Reform" Farm

Friday, June 10, 2011
Reuters has a must-read story on the inadequacy and failure of Raul Castro's agricultural "reforms."

Yet, no newspapers have picked it up, nor can it be found online.

Why?

Obviously -- because it goes against the hyped publicity and narrative of Raul Castro's "reforms."

From Reuters:

Cuban agriculture crisis persists despite reforms

By Marc Frank

HAVANA, June 3 - A lack of financing, inadequate reforms and bureaucracy are undercutting efforts to increase Cuban food production, farmers and local experts said this week, as an official report showed output of most farm products in 2010 was lower than it was five years before.

President Raul Castro has made increasing food production to substitute for imports and to supply a growing food service industry a priority since taking over for his ailing brother in 2006.

But with the exception of a few items, the import substitution program has yielded few results so far.

The 2010 crops of potatoes, root vegetables such as malanga and yucca, bananas, garden vegetables, corn, beans and fruits were all below what they were in 2005, according to the report released by the National Statistics Office.

Export crops, including sugar, coffee, tobacco and citrus fruit were also below 2005 levels. So was pork, Cubans' favored meat.

There were increases in most other livestock, milk, eggs and rice, the statistics showed.

Cuba imports between 60 percent and 70 percent of the food it consumes even while huge swaths of state land remain uncultivated.

"The government is moving way too slowly to implement reforms, which in many cases are half measures in the first place," a local agriculture expert said, asking his name not be used due to prohibitions on talking with foreign journalists.

Castro has decentralized decision making, opened up more space for farmers to sell directly to consumers, leased fallow state lands to would-be tillers and raised prices the state pays for produce.

STATE MONOPOLY

Nevertheless, the state still monopolizes food distribution and the supply of critical farm inputs despite criticism from farmers and consumers, the expert said, with only 10 percent of food sold on the open market.

Only now have state banks begun offering some small micro credits to new farmers, even as millions of dollars in micro credits offered by third countries, such as Spain, remain blocked due to authorities' insistence that the money flow through a state system that can not guarantee end use accountability.

"Land alone is useless, you need water and seeds and other supplies to put it into production. At a minimum you need a well, to install a windmill, put in an irrigation system and have tools and supplies, and that costs money," central Camaguey farmer Ernesto said.

"If we really want to increase food production we need to face the problem in a less haphazard and more integrated way," he said in a telephone interview.

To date, the agriculture ministry has granted 128,000 leases covering 2.9 million acres (1.2 million hectares), with another 1.7 million acres (700,000 hectares) being offered, the local expert said, adding that at least 30 percent of the land granted had yet to be cleared and put into production. Much of the rest was producing little due to a lack of financing and supplies.

"Three years ago the government began leasing state lands, but only now are they readying changes which increase the parcels' size, extend lease times, allow home and other construction on the properties and other changes. What took them so long?" he asked.

(H/T Cuba Triangle)