martes, 31 de agosto de 2010


G.B. Hagelberg

"We face the imperative of making our land produce more . . . the needed
structural and conceptual changes will have to be introduced," Raúl
Castro famously proclaimed on 26 July 2007, a few days short of a year
after provisionally taking over the reins of Cuba's government from his
incapacitated older brother. Nine months later, now formally confirmed
in power by the National Assembly, he told a plenary meeting of the
Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party on 28 April 2008 that
food production had to be their top concern as a matter of the highest
national security.

In countries otherwise so very diverse as the United States, Russia and
Nigeria, Germany, Iran and the Dominican Republic, Sweden, Brazil and
Honduras, the four years that Raúl Castro has de facto presided over
Cuba would constitute a full term of office, towards the end of which
supporters and opponents of an administration argue over its record
during a general election campaign. While Cuba's one-party regime
marches to the beat of a different drummer, its people – like people
across the world – respond to the thrice-daily call of their stomachs.
Cuba is no exception to the applicability of the time dimension in
politics and economics, and the passage of time is a necessary yardstick
for judging this government's effectiveness.

What brought the food situation to the fore of the government's agenda
were the ballooning cost of food imports and an alarming deterioration
of the food export-import balance pressing on the merchandise trade
balance, now that foreign exchange earnings from sugar exports no longer
offset outgoings for other agricultural products. Other countries also
felt the impact of sharply increased international commodity prices in
2007-08. Cuba's government, however, could not blame soulless world
markets alone if people did not have enough to eat. The downsizing of
the sugar industry – more demolition than restructuring – had engendered
hundreds of thousands of hectares of idle land, on which dense thickets
of marabú (Dichrostachys cinerea) bore highly visible evidence of the
state's mismanagement of the island's resources. Fifteen years or so
into the "Special Period in Time of Peace" that began with the end of
Soviet-bloc supports for the Cuban economy, the government was faced
with the specter of a return to the drop in food availabilities, if not
the nutritional deficits, experienced in the first half of the 1990s – a
double dip in current economic recession parlance.

So what has the government done in the farm sector in the four years of
Raúl Castro's stewardship?
• Debts amounting to tens of millions of pesos owed by state agencies to
cooperative and independent farmers have been paid. However, the
revelation that barely had the old debts been settled when new debts
began to accumulate (Varela Pérez, 2009a) undermined claims that the
deficiencies which allowed such arrears to arise had been eliminated
(cf. Hagelberg and Alvarez, 2007).
• A reorganization of the agriculture ministry begun in 2007 reportedly
resulted in the closure of 83 state enterprises and the transformation
of 473 loss-making units, with 7,316 workers transferred to other jobs.
Analysis of 17 enterprises selected in a second stage showed the
possibility of more than halving the number of employees in management.
Overall, the ministry counted some 89,000 "unproductive" workers in the
state sector – not including Basic Units of Cooperative Production
(UBPCs), undertakings that "after many ups and downs and ambiguities
have still not fulfilled the mission for which they were created"
(Varela Pérez, 2009b). More recently, agriculture minister Ulises
Rosales del Toro stated that more than 40,000 "indirect workers" in the
sector had to be relocated (Pérez Cabrera, 2010).
• Controls formerly exercised directly by the agriculture ministry from
Havana have been shifted down to municipal level. To what extent this
actually reduced the bureaucratic apparatus and made life easier for
producers is uncertain. The Cuban economist Armando Nova Gonzàlez
expressed doubt, arguing that the functions of government and of
business management were still being confused: while one structural
level had been eliminated, two had been created by introducing a chain
of service enterprises to supply production inputs. That was all very
well, but how were the producers to acquire the inputs? Through a
market, or, as hitherto, by central allocation, which for years had been
shown not to be the best way? (Martín González, 2009)
• Shops selling hand tools and supplies for convertible pesos (CUC) have
been opened in some municipalities. The degree to which this has created
direct access to production inputs has so far been limited by the small
number of such outlets and the range of goods on offer. Some fraction of
farmer income from produce sold to the state and otherwise is also
denominated in CUC. But for the acquisition of larger items and bulk
quantities, bank loans in that currency would have to become available
(Nova González, 2008).
• Sharply increased state procurement prices – some, notably for milk
and beef, to double and more their former level – have, by all accounts,
been an incentive to raise output.
But these measures did not amount to structural or conceptual changes,
though they could awaken hopes that those would come.


At the end of the first four years of Raúl Castro's watch, the one
structural change worthy of the name in agriculture is the mass grant in
usufruct of idle state land, mainly to small farmers and landless
persons. Although these transfers are surrounded by conditions,
Decree-Law No. 259 of 10 July 2008 is deeply revisionist in concept
since it implies – more clearly than the conversion of state farms into
UBPCs in 1993 – the abandonment of the long-held doctrine of the
superiority of state or parastatal, large-scale, mechanized agriculture
reliant on wage labor, of which Fidel Castro had been the foremost
exponent in Cuba. Over the signature of Raúl Castro as President of the
Council of State, it was decreed that landless individuals could obtain
up to 13.42 hectares and existing landholders could bring their total
area up to 40.26 hectares under licenses valid for up to 10 years and
successively renewable for the same period. Existing state farms,
cooperatives and other legal entities could apply for the usufruct of an
unlimited area for 25 years, renewable for another 25 years.

No detailed statistics of operations under Decree-Law No. 259 seem to
have been published since mid-2009 (González, 2009), cited in Hagelberg
and Alvarez (2009). The information on land areas by type and tenancy in
the most recent yearbook of Cuba's National Office of Statistics stops
at 2007 (ONE, 2010, Table 9.1). Different global figures can be found in
media reports. Raúl Castro informed the National Assembly towards the
end of 2009 that around 920,000 hectares had been transferred to more
than 100,000 beneficiaries, which represented 54% of the total idle area
(Granma, 21 December 2009). This would put the magnitude of the total
idle area at the outset at 1.7 million hectares. Almost five months
later, Marino Murillo Jorge, minister of economy and planning, gave the
congress of the Asociación Nacional de Agricultores Pequeños (ANAP), the
national association of small farmers, the same figure of 920,000
hectares as the land transferred under Decree-Law No. 259, adding that
around half of the areas so assigned remained idle or insufficiently
exploited (Granma, 17 May 2010).

From the second half of 2009 onwards, the reportorial focus in the
state-controlled mass media has shifted noticeably from implementation
of Decree-Law No. 259 to advancing a so-called Agricultura Suburbana
program. Raúl Castro gave the cue in a speech to the summer 2009 session
of the National Assembly (Granma, 3 August 2009):
Let us forget tractors and fuel in this program, even if we had them in
sufficient quantities; the concept is to execute it basically with oxen,
because it is about small farms, as a growing number of producers are
doing with excellent results. I have visited some and could verify that
they have transformed the land they are working into true gardens where
every inch of ground is used.

Raúl Castro entrusted this new initiative specifically to Adolfo
Rodríguez Nodals, the head of the National Group of Urban Agriculture
(since renamed National Group of Urban and Suburban Agriculture) in the
agriculture ministry. The group, he declared, "has obtained outstanding
results in urban agriculture, fruit of the exactingness and systemacity
expressed in the four controls that it carries out annually in all the
provinces and municipalities of the country" (Granma, 3 August 2009).
This suggests that Raúl Castro still prized centralized control over
operational functionality, evidently unconscious of the fact that it is
wholly unsuitable for the management of small-scale mixed farming.

While the idea of the Agricultura Suburbana plan may indeed have come
from the experience of the Agricultura Urbana program created in the
1990s (Rodríguez Castellón, 2003) and shares some of its policy
objectives and features, such as high labor intensity, the two schemes
are as distinct as town and country, horticulture and agriculture.
Agricultura Urbana rests, in the main, on patios (domestic gardens),
plots (empty lots planted to vegetables) and so-called organopónicos –
low-walled beds filled with soil and organic matter, with or without
drip irrigation, in the open air or in shade houses, their high-tech
name derived from hydroponic installations that could not be maintained
after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The system, now reportedly
embracing around 10,500 organopónicos alone and occupying more than
300,000 workers (Luben Pérez, 2010), no doubt contributes substantially
to the food supply and has other advantages. Equally, Rodríguez Nodals's
group undoubtedly fulfills some useful functions by providing advice and
facilitating access to supplies in other countries easily available.
Its face to the wider public, however, consists of tedious reports of
its quarterly inspections and the grades it bestows on its charges,
rather in the manner of an elementary school teacher (e.g. Varela Pérez,

In contrast, the basic structural model of Agricultura Suburbana is the
finca, a small farm, most often in private hands, located in an
eight-kilometer-deep ring between two and ten kilometers from urban
centers. The plan is being rolled out in stages stretching over five
years, some selected municipalities at a time. Its declared objective is
to source the food supply of population concentrations as far as
possible from nearby crop and livestock producers primarily reliant on
animal power for field work as well as transport. Around the city of
Camagüey, the test ground for the project, it is ultimately to comprise
some 1,400 units with a total area of roughly 65,000 hectares, 80% of
which is agricultural land, the greater part devoted to cattle
(Hernández Porto, 2009; Carrobello, 2010; Frank, 2010). Introduced as an
experiment in 18 municipalities at the beginning of 2010, the program
would be progressively extended to some 600,000 hectares across the
whole country, according to ANAP president Orlando Lugo Fonte (Bosch, 2010).

The emphasis put on narrowing the distance beween producer and purchaser
– distributor, processor or final consumer, on employing animals in
place of internal combustion engines in field work and haulage, and on
using compost instead of inorganic fertilizers shows that the
Agricultura Suburbana program, like the government's other major
agricultural policy initiatives in the last 20 years from the creation
of the UBPCs to Decree-Law No. 259, is inspired above all by the need to
reduce Cuba's dependence on imports, both food and production inputs, at
a time of extreme economic stress. To go by the official propaganda,
were Agricultura Suburbana enterprises to be characterized by a logo, it
would have to feature a pair of oxen. Hence it is disconcerting to find
that Cuba's stock of draught oxen appears to have shrunk by a quarter
from 377,100 to 284,700 between 2004 and 2009, in contrast to a growing
equine population (ONE, 2010, Tables 9.15 and 9.24). If ONE's figures
are right, the question can reasonably be asked: do the policymakers in
Havana know what goes on down on the farm?

Regardless of whether it offers a perspective of more than a
semi-subsistence agriculture, the shortage of material resources to back
up the effort to return swathes of mostly marabú-infested land to
production under Decree-Law No. 259 favored the more measured approach
of the Agricultura Suburbana program. The authorities were admittedly
overwhelmed by the flood of requests for plots triggered by Decree-Law
No. 259 (Carrobello and Terrero, 2009a). Within barely more than a month
of opening the door to submissions in the autumn of 2008, some 69,000
applications were received – 98% of them from individuals and 79% of
these from persons without land – according to official figures (Nova
González, 2008). Another month of so later and the number of applicants
had swelled to some 117,000 (Carrobello and Terrero, 2009a). Was the
notorious Cuban dislike for agricultural work another myth? If a fan of
the Beatles, Raúl Castro may well have been reminded of the lyrics of
Eleanor Rigby: "All the lonely people / Where do they all come from? /
All the lonely people / Where do they all belong?" Declaring the
distribution of idle land in usufruct one of the great challenges for
the coming year, he rather optimistically told an interviewer on the
last day of 2008: "We have already put behind us the first, initial
obstacles we encountered because of atavistic bureaucratic habits"
(González Pérez, 2009).

In fact, many successful applicants found that what they had signed up
for was, as the trade union organ Trabajadores recalled later, hacer de
tripas, corazón – summon up the guts to root out the marabú, "most often
without the necessary tools and without a gram of herbicide, by sheer
spirit alone" (Rey Veitia et al, 2010). An investigation by a team of
Juventud Rebelde reporters in March 2009 unearthed multiple problems –
lack of hand tools, machinery and fuel, insufficient financial support,
uncertainty over whether even a shelter was permitted on the plot,
shortage of fencing wire, and bureaucracy – along with concern over the
technical unpreparedness of people new to farming (Pérez et al, 2009).
In rebuttal of purported exploitation of the issues by foreign news
agencies allegedly intent on defaming Cuba, Trabajadores sought to
dampen down expectations: "It would be a delusion to think . . . that
any agricultural process that begins with the request for the land could
bring significant productive results in only nine months . . . .
Bureaucracy? Yes, it is a process that implies steps and involves
various agencies" (González, 2009).

Yet similar complaints of shortages, delays, irregularities,
bureaucracy, and official incompetence have resurfaced again and again
(e.g. "Efectuado pleno . . .," 2009; Rey Veitia et al, 2010). The
persistent bureaucracy made the front page of Granma when farmers
informed José Ramón Machado Ventura, member of the Politburo and first
vice president of the councils of state and of ministers, at an ANAP
meeting in Havana, of the "diabolical" mechanisms holding back pigmeat
production in the metropolitan area (Varela Pérez, 2010e). And Juventud
Rebelde quoted an outstanding young farmer (Martín González, 2010):
For some time I have been supplying eggs to a school in the community.
Until now I have done it with the hens I have, but they have to be
replaced because they are getting old and don't produce. When I asked
for replacements, there was so much paperwork that I am still thinking
about it.


A bane in the lives of the Cuban people, an incompetent bureaucracy
constitutes a minefield for the country's leadership. In their efforts
to devise agricultural reforms, Cuba's policymakers labor under a big
informational handicap. The government is ill-served by its statistical
apparatus. A cardinal case in point is a monograph survey of land use,
released by the National Office of Statistics in May 2008, which put the
idle agricultural land at 1,232,800 hectares, equal to 18.6% of all
agricultural land, as of December 2007 (ONE, 2008). Presumably, this was
the figure that guided the framers of Decree-Law No. 259 of 10 July
2008. The number was repeated in ONE's statistical yearbooks for 2008
and 2009 (Table 9.1), published in 2009 and 2010 respectively, and is
still the most recent available from that source. However, as casually
revealed in Trabajadores, it appears to have been a gross
understatement: "A study of the idle state lands arrived at 1,691
thousand hectares" (González, 2009). The provenance of this study has
remained unidentified, as far as is known, but a figure in the order of
1.7 million hectares is now evidently the accepted magnitude of the idle
land area existent on the eve of Decree-Law No. 259.

Hagelberg and Alvarez (2009) underlined the scope for statistical
manipulation offered by a metric of land utilization that allows
inclusion of areas merely earmarked for a crop, as officially employed
in Cuba in respect of sugarcane. Carrobello and Terrero (2009a)
subsequently pointed to another possibility – there may have been no
second study, merely a reclassification of categories that moved the
goalposts: "But if we add [to the figure of 1,232,800 hectares] the
pastures of doubtful utility, 55% of the agricultural area was not
cultivated." Agricultural statistics everywhere must, by the nature of
things, be granted a margin of error and should not be interpreted too
closely. But this is a discrepancy of a different order. In a matter as
sensitive as idle land, pollution of the statistical process by
political or ideological considerations cannot be excluded. A
century-old practice of maintaining grassland reserves in sugar
plantations to expand the cane area when profitable to do so moreover
conjures up an image of turf wars between the agriculture and sugar

However, ONE publications also contain numerous infelicities hard to
ascribe to political contamination. For instance, the most recent ONE
statistical yearbooks (ONE, 2009 and 2010) report tonnages of sugarcane
processed in each season since 2002/03 (Table 11.3) greater than those
produced for delivery to the mills in the respective season (Table 9.4).
Though perhaps not on a par with the biblical miracle of the loaves and
fishes, the magnification amounts to as much as 900,000 metric tons in
2002/03 (4.1%) and 800,000 tons in 2006/07 (6.7%). Examination of
earlier editions of the yearbook indicates that this inconsistency began
in 2002/03, the first crop following the restructuring of the industry.
The technical indicators displayed in Table 11.3 – cane milled, sugar
produced, yield and polarization – are a farrago of incongruities and
plain error. Unusually, ONE references these solecisms to the sugar
ministry, but that does not absolve it of responsibility since it is the
controller of the national system of statistics and guarantor of their

The question-mark hanging over ONE's integrity, competence and
professionalism notwithstanding, it is for outside analysts the only
source of the data necessary to present more than an anecdotal picture
of Cuban agricultural performance. Accurately weighing the impact of the
three major hurricanes and a tropical storm that occurred in 2008 –
described as the most destructive hurricane season in Cuba's recorded
history (Messina, 2009) – both on that year's output and regarding
after-effects, is an additional problem. Messina noted miscellaneous
reports of damage and losses in tree and arable crops, chicken and egg
production, and sugar factories. But the expected high levels of loss
were not reflected in the official data. Discussing the possible reasons
for the lighter than anticipated losses recorded, Messina thought the
most plausible explanation was that particularly in perennial and tree
crops the greater part of the harvest takes place in spring and was
largely completed before the hurricane season. The full impact of the
2008 weather events would therefore not become apparent until the spring
harvest of 2009 and would have to be taken into account in looking at
that year's figures.

Table 1 summarizes the official data on 2009 performance in the major
crop and livestock categories. The information for the non-state sector
is said to comprehend Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPCs),
Agricultural Production Cooperatives (CPAs), Credits and Services
Cooperatives (CCSs), as well as dispersed private producers and
estimates for house patios and plots (ONE, 2010, Chapter 9,
Introduction). No breakdown into its components is provided in the
yearbook. Given the hybrid character of the UBPCs (Hagelberg and
Alvarez, 2009), their assignment to the non-state sector is debatable.
Interestingly, they are carried on a separate government register from
CPAs and CCSs (ONE, 2010, Chapter 4, "Institutional Organization,"
Methodological Notes). The estimates for patios and plots may also
include self-provisioning patches of state enterprises, UBPCs and CPAs;
but it is reasonable to suppose that the majority are in private hands.
In any event, it is understandably difficult to capture the full volume
of production in this category (Messina, 2009).

Table 1: Cuban food crop and livestock production, 2009

Production Change from Non-state share (%)
(1000 m.t.) 2008 (%) 2008 2009

Tubers and roots 1565.6 12.4 86.6 86.1
Bananas and plantains 670.4 –11.6 82.7 84.5
Horticultural crops 2548.8 4.5 82.1 80.4
Paddy rice 563.6 29.3 87.5 85.8
Corn 304.8 –6.4 93.4 91.8
Beans 110.8 14.0 97.0 94.5
Citrus fruits 418.0 6.7 37.9 38.8
Other fruits 748.0 1.3 92.2 90.8
Deliveries for slaughter, live weight
Beef 130.0 4.9 n.a. n.a.
Pigs 271.0 –7.2 41.0 44.8
Poultry meat 42.6 <0.5 77.8 77.9
Cow milk 600.3 10.0 86.4 86.4
Eggs 2426.8a 4.2 19.1 23.4

a Million units.
Sources: ONE, 2010, Tables 9.9, 9.11, 9.17, 9.18, 9.20, 9.22, 9.23.
Percentages calculated by the author, in the case of the non-state
shares of pigs delivered for slaughter, poultry meat and eggs,
indirectly by subtraction of the output of state enterprises from total

With the sole exception of rice, recorded 2009 outputs in the major crop
lines listed in Table 1 were below – in some cases, far below – their
levels in 2004, the first year shown in this edition of the yearbook.
Average yields per hectare (ONE, 2010, Table 9.12) were the lowest for
the six-year period 2004-2009 – except citrus fruits, in fourth place
from the best, higher than expected, and other fruits, in fifth place.
The record is better in livestock products, with only poultry meat not
reaching the 2004 figure. Except in egg and poultry meat production
(ONE, 2010, Tables 9.22 and 9.23), there are also clear signs of
improved efficiency, with average beef and pig live weights at slaughter
and milk yield per cow on rising trends, although still at very low
levels (ONE, 2010, Tables 9.17, 9.18 and 9.20).

Not so much legacy effects of the 2008 weather as badly distributed and
overall low rainfall the following year (ONE, 2010, Table 2.3) was
probably at least in part responsible for lackluster 2009 crop yields,
alongside of more secular factors. Messina (2009) surmised that citrus
output may still be affected by the bacterial citrus greening or
Huanglongbing disease, a conjecture confirmed by Varela Pérez (2010c).
Growing corn in Cuba is constrained by low yields and high production
costs. Some of the output swings in either direction are easily
traceable to official actions on prices and resource allocation. Potato
producers enjoyed priority in the supply of imported seed, fertilizer
and plant chemicals. Rice and beans are focal points of the policy of
import substitution. Milk production mirrors the effect of price
incentives and the increase in small-scale stock farming as a result of
Decree-Law No. 259, among other factors. On the other hand, the drop in
the delivery of pigs for slaughter suggests a classic hog cycle farmer
response of herd reduction after encountering marketing difficulties in

Unsurprisingly in an agriculture as exposed as Cuba's to governmental
intervention as well as the vagaries of the weather, there is scant
evidence of stabilization in domestic food production. A greatly
expanded area planted was the principal factor behind a comparatively
large tomato harvest, the main contributor to the smallish rise in the
horticultural crop total. Memories of losses due to the inability of
Acopio, the state procurement agency, and of processing plants to handle
last year's tomato crop are likely to be reflected in 2010, if the large
decreases in area planted and production in the first quarter, compared
with the same period in 2009 (ONE, Dirección de Agropecuario, 2010) are
a guide. Compared with the same period in 2009, the first three months
of 2010 saw bananas and plantains up 75.1%, but tubers and roots down
9.0%; horticultural crops down 25.1%; corn up 4.9%; beans down 30.5%;
paddy rice up 45.5%; citrus fruits down 21.7%; other fruits up 16.1%;
live weight beef and pig deliveries for slaughter down 3.2% and 3.3%
respectively; cow milk down 6.0%; and eggs down 1.1% (ONE, Dirección de
Agropecuario, 2010). Unless the 2010 rainy season breaks the severe
drought that began in late 2008, the government could easily find itself
again between the Scylla and Charybdis of a national food crisis or a
huge food import bill.


If there is a clear message from the data, it is Cuba's dependence on
the non-state sector – and to a greatly increased extent on the truly
private part thereof – for the national food supply. The gradual
245,000-hectare (25%) expansion of the agricultural land owned or leased
by private operators that took place between 1989 and 2007 (Hagelberg
and Alvarez, 2009) was dwarfed by the structural change in land tenancy
within the space of a few months by the implementation of Decree-Law No.

This is too recent a development to have made an impact on the non-state
shares in output shown in Table 1, most of which were already of a high
order. However, it is reflected in the non-state shares in crop areas
harvested and in production – in seven out of eight categories higher in
2009 than in 2008 (Table 2).

Table 2: Non-sugar food crop areas harvested and in production, 2009

Area Change from Non-state share (%)
(1000 ha) 2008 (%) 2008 2009

Tubers and roots 246.0 25.4 87.8 90.8
Bananas and plantains 106.4 27.2 82.7 88.8
Horticultural crops 278.6 7.5 86.7 88.4
Paddy rice 215.8 38.7 88.0 87.6
Corn 204.0 57.9 91.2 95.5
Beans 150.6 58.0 94.9 96.3
Citrus fruits 47.9 5.0 54.0 62.2
Other fruits 91.7 10.4 85.6 88.1

Sources: ONE, 2010, Tables 9.6, 9.8. Percentages calculated by the author.

Overall, the total area harvested and in production of the crops listed
here grew by 293,353 hectares from 1,047,559 hectares in 2008 to
1,340,912 hectares in 2009 (ONE, 2010, Table 9.6), an increase of 28.0%.
The expansion of the non-state share was greater, both absolutely and
relatively, amounting to 296,571 hectares from 906,981 hectares in 2008
to 1,203,552 hectares (ONE, 2010, Table 9.8) – an increase of 32.7%.

Indicative of the impaired state of Cuba's agriculture, however, is that
while the 2009 areas of all these crops exceeded the previous year's,
those of bananas and plantains, horticultural crops and citrus fruits
had yet to recover their 2004 level. The total 2009 area of 1,340,912
hectares exceeded the corresponding figure for 2004 by just 114,279
hectares, or 9.3%.

Another measure of the enhanced role of the non-state sector – in this
case excluding UBPC affiliates who are considered ineligible to belong
to it – is the growth of the organization representing private farmers,
although there is a confusion of numbers. Towards the end of 2009, a
member of the national bureau of the Asociación Nacional de Agricultores
Pequeños was reported to the effect that nearly 57,000 new producers had
joined the organization and that a further 3,000 new entrants were
expected, with an equal growth in the membership of credits and services
cooperatives (Carrobello and Terrero, 2009b). The figure of some 60,000
new farmers was subsequently confirmed by Orlando Lugo Fonte, ANAP's
president (Hernández, 2010). But Lugo Fonte has also reportedly said
that the small farmer sector had grown by "more than 100,000 new
members" as a result of the transfer of idle lands under Decree-Law No.
259 ("Destacan potencial . . ., " 2010; Fernández, 2010). However, on
the eve of the 2010 ANAP congress he spoke of 362,440 members in CPAs
and CSSs, organized in 3,635 base units (Varela Pérez, 2010g). This
figure would be roughly consistent with the addition of 40,000 new
members to the 327,380 reported in 2005, which was the influx Lugo Fonte
had initially expected in 2009 to result from Decree-Law No. 259
(Hagelberg and Alvarez, 2009). While a large fraction of the new
producers undoubtedly had previous farming experience as agricultural
laborers or technicians – the personnel made redundant by the downsizing
of the sugar industry alone constituting a big pool, the fact that the
bulk of the applicants for land under Decree-Law No. 259 were previously
landless led Armando Nova, an academic and member of the Centro de
Estudios de la Economía Cubana, to speculate on "the beginning of a
process of 'repeasantization'" (Carrobello and Terrero, 2009b).

Recognition at the apex of Cuba's leadership that Decree-Law No. 259 had
created new economic and social "facts on the ground," with political
implications to be closely watched, would explain the participation of
first vice president and Politburo member José Ramón Machado Ventura in
ANAP regional meetings in preparation for the association's tenth
congress in the spring of 2010. In a conspicuous display of political
manpower, agriculture minister Ulises Rosales del Toro, Politburo member
and a vice president of the council of ministers, and ANAP president
Lugo Fonte, member of the Communist Party's central committee and of the
council of state, were regularly outranked at the presiding table of
these gatherings by the No. 2 in the national hierarchy.


In his speech to the National Assembly in July 2008, Raúl Castro himself
returned to his oft-quoted 1994 statement, near the nadir of Cuba's
fortunes following the collapse of central and east European communism,
that "beans are more important than cannons." Previously, in April, his
focus on food production together with the announcement that the long
overdue sixth Communist Party congress would be held towards the end of
2009 had ensured that the subject would continue to figure prominently
in the debates about Cuba's future that the regime had organized
throughout the country. As it turned out, the congress was again
postponed in July 2009 and the prospect then offered of a party
conference has also still to materialize. But whatever the authorities
gained from the debates in gauging the popular mood, identifying hot
spots, preparing the citizenry for cuts in public services and state
jobs, and providing a safety valve for discontent, there is one visible
result: the greatly increased reflection in the mass media of the raw
reality that people have long talked about in the street.

A notable example is the acknowledgment by the veteran chief spin-doctor
of the sugar and (more recently) of the agriculture ministries, Juan
Varela Pérez, of the defects of the UBPCs (Varela Pérez, 2009c):
Time showed that, not having been recognized as true cooperatives, many
remained halfway between the state farm and the CPA [collective farm
composed of former private holdings]. [Their members] were neither
cooperativists nor wholly agricultural workers; a limbo was created, but
moreover factors deforming their essence arose, to the point of
maintaining intact the structure of the original enterprises, to the
control of which they were subordinated.
In a subsequent article, Varela Pérez (2010b) listed the differences
between genuine cooperatives and the UBPCs that had worked to the
latter's detriment. But the new realism goes only so far. The UBPCs
failed, with few exceptions, because "they strayed from the essential
principles approved by the Politburo . . . the approved basic principles
were forgotten" and because of "the violation of the concepts that
brought the UBPCs to life." Yet it was the regime's penchant for
centralized decision-making and micromanagement that dominated in the
creation of the UBPCs in 1993. "We are so accustomed to disguise
ourselves to others that in the end we become disguised to ourselves,"
La Rochefoucauld wrote long ago. As long as this is the case, the new
openness cannot progress from description of symptoms to diagnosis of
causes and thought-through response.

Recognition that beans are more important than cannons has not so far
led the government to more than tinker with two major issues that weigh
on the overall performance of Cuba's agriculture: the debacle of the
sugar agroindustry and the flawed system of state controls over farm
inputs and outputs.

For the sixth year running – and, ironically, when world market prices
reached their highest point since 1981, Cuba has produced less than 1.5
million metric tons of sugar in 2009/10, a fall of more than 80% from
the average annual output of the 1980s. In the last days of the harvest,
Reuters (3 June) put the final figure at 1.1-1.2 million metric tons.

In early May, a note from the council of state announced a change of
sugar ministers, the outgoing having asked to be relieved of his
responsibilities "on recognizing the deficiencies of his work which were
pointed out to him" (Granma, 4 May 2010). An agronomic engineer, he had
been promoted from first vice minister less than 18 months before, after
a 38-year career in the sugar sector. His replacement, a chemical
engineer, has similarly risen from first vice minister, after more than
30 years in the sugar sector. The new incumbent will not be a minister
for long, however, if the knowledgeable Reuters and Financial Times
correspondent in Cuba, Marc Frank, was right that the sugar ministry
would soon be transmuted into a corporation (Reuters, 7 April 2010).

The day after this announcement, Varela Pérez (2010f) blamed what he
called the poorest sugar crop since 1905 on bad organization,
overestimates of the available cane, and "a high grade of imprecisions
and voluntarism." But if this had to be the main tenor of a story put
out to explain the defenestration of the minister, disclosure that 55%
of the crop area had not been fertilized, only 3% irrigated (down from
up to 30% in the 1980s) and that sugarcane was "today the lowest paid
[product] in agriculture" rendered implausible the pretense that
"disciplinary measures" and "perfecting the system of administration"
were all the answer required. In calling for the restoration of
sugarcane to the place corresponding to its continued significance
economically and as "part of Cuba's patrimony," Varela Pérez either
forgot or hoped his readers will have forgotten Fidel Castro's
denunciation in 2005 of sugar as the "ruin" of Cuba's economy and
belonging to "the era of slavery" that was the cue to reduce the
industry to its present penury. With the 2009/10 harvest having starkly
demonstrated "the effects of the cane crisis" to the point where
continued decline could end in the industry's extinction, there was an
echo of the old Cuban saying, Sin azúcar, no hay país – without sugar,
there is no country, in the way Varela Pérez (2010i) posed the question
how to begin restoring sugar's "noble and economic tradition" that "has
distinguished Cubans historically." The repeated emphasis on the
unremunerative cane price – responsibility of the ministry of finance
and prices – suggests that the Cuban regime is not exempt from the
inter-departmental differences regularly seen in other governments.

The other big issue – the state's control over what goes into and comes
out of agriculture – lies at the heart of the Cuba's command economy,
which explains the regime's reluctance to tackle it in a fundamental way
despite the record of its vices stretching over decades.

In what is until now the most recent attempt to make the system more
efficient, the distribution and marketing functions of Acopio in Havana
city and province passed from the Ministry of Agriculture to Domestic
Commerce in August 2009. But within barely more than a month, it was
clear that Mincin "was not sufficiently prepared for the task," with the
result of "significant losses" of perishable products (Varela Pérez and
de la Hoz, 2009a). Anxious to find some progress, Granma's reporters
returned to the scene again and again (Varela Pérez and de la Hoz,
2009b, 2009c, 2009d), faith triumphing over experience: "However many
difficulties, the socialist market has to be a mission possible," they
wrote. It remained just a hope. In the first two months of 2010, the
state food markets in the capital received only 62% of the supplies they
were supposed to get from the farmers in the province. Among the
reasons: growers had been left without the fertilizer and plant
protection chemicals they needed in the last quarter of 2009, and Mincin
still had not got its act together. Bizarrely, a regulation prohibited
trucks carrying produce from other provinces to enter the city, even
with the proper documentation, and with Mincin company buyers no longer
picking up various kinds of horticultural produce, Havana province
farmers were reducing plantings (Varela Pérez, 2010d).

Across the island, apparatchik interference with supply and demand has
at different times and in different places thrown a variety of spanners
in the works. Farmers who have heeded government calls to produce more
have pitched up against a worn-out infrastructure. In Granma province,
an unspecified amount of rice was lost, some was processed below
quality, and growers still held 1,000 tons dried manually owing to
insufficient industrial drying, milling and storage capacity, and these
were not the only problems (Sariol Sosa, 2009). In a Villa Clara
municipality, the government got itself into a tangle with farmers who,
urged to plant a greater area of garlic than contemplated, produced
about double the crop it had contracted to buy (Pérez Cabrera, 2009). In
Camagüey, the state lactic products company was not ready to cope with
the increased volume of milk deliveries, and the milk spent, on average,
four and a half hours on the road between producer and processor, to the
detriment of its quality (Febles Hernández, 2009). Mangoes similarly
overwhelmed the infrastructure in Santiago de Cuba (Riquenes Cutiño,
2009). A cross-country survey of the non-citrus fruit situation
(Carrobello and de Jesús, 2010) found some improvements, notably the
appearance of roadside sales points and ambulant vendors; but production
and distribution continued to be hampered by lack of irrigation
facilities, input shortages ranging from fertilizer and plant chemicals
to gloves and boxes, difficulties in obtaining bank credits, and the
rigidities of the state procurement apparatus. Yet though he grumbled
about various deficiencies and incongruities, ANAP's Lugo Fonte still
thought that the cure lay in rigorous contracting between parties and
was not prepared to identify the monopsonistic and monopolistic position
of state enterprises in relation to the farmer as the root of the
problem (Barreras Ferrán, 2010).

A whiff of oligarchal factionalism came from a Lugo Fonte interview in
which he recounted the conditions that had depressed cattle farming in
the private sector. Small farmers had been allowed to sell their animals
only to state companies, most of which did not have scales and bought
the cattle "on the hoof," based on the color of the hide, the tail and
the horns, and with a high charge for slaughtering – all in accordance
with regulations. These rules had been dumped and beef prices sharply
raised. But, in order to preserve their margin, the companies were now
hindering producers from sending animals directly to the abattoir by
refusing to rent vehicles (Varela Pérez, 2010a). And while ANAP members
were being encouraged to send raw milk straight to retail outlets, Lugo
Fonte lamented that this practice had not been extended to other
products, such as eggs (Varela Pérez, 2010g).

If Acopio was provoking "downpours" of criticism, the mechanisms of
supplying farmers with inputs were causing a "tempest," Juventud
Rebelde, the Communist Party's youth organ, reported on the weekend of
the ANAP congress (Varios Autores, 2010). More was to come at the
congress itself. Entitled "For greater farm and forestry production,"
much of the 37-point report of its commission on production and the
economy was given over to a somewhat unselective survey of the gamut of
products, from rice to medicinal plants, and from beef to honey, in
which greater output could replace imports and enhance exports (Granma,
17 May 2010). But coupled with this were demands on government to
resolve a host of functional issues: credit provision; water usage
approval; allowing producers to sell directly to retailers, tourist
facilities and slaughterhouses; promoting local micro and
mini-industries; seasonal price differentiation; crop insurance; tax
reform; access to building materials; freeing the cooperatives from
restrictions and empowering them to enter into contracts; and reforming
quality norms. Of sufficient importance to deserve a point by themselves
were the "innumerable concerns" raised by the delegates from Havana city
and province concerning the system of commercialization piloted in these
territories – excessive product handling, crop losses, arguments over
quality, retail outlet permits, state company margins, cartage,
container return, and trucks owned by cooperatives being barred from
delivering straight to the city's state markets.


Closing the congress from the government side, minister of the economy
and planning Marino Murillo Jorge made it clear that there would be no
relaxation of the state's control of food marketing (Granma, 17 May
2010). In the sole reference to what he admitted was "one of the
subjects most discussed in this congress," he claimed consensus on the
need to improve the quality and compelling force of contracts, so that
the parties meet their obligations and the quantities agreed are
planted, harvested and marketed, avoiding the sale in the
suppy-and-demand markets of produce not certified as surplus to contract
or allowed free disposal. Government and ANAP had to collaborate "to
solve as soon as possible the problem of illegal intermediaries who
artificially raise prices without contributing to society."

Concerning market reform, Murillo Jorge had but one announcement – the
government would "organize the creation in the majority of the
municipalities of the country of an input market where producers could
acquire directly the resources necessary for crop and livestock
production, replacing the current mechanism of central allocation." The
price policy governing this market, he spelled out, "must guarantee, on
the one hand, recognition in the acopio price [the price at which the
state acquires products] of the real costs of production and, on the
other, the elimination of the great number of subsidies that the state
pays today through the budget." Whether this market will amount to
something more than adding to the small number of existing stores
selling tools and supplies for convertible pesos and how it will obtain
its merchandise, if not by central allocation, was left in the dark.

All together, it is hard to resist the impression that this was a
holding operation at which ANAP delegates could let off steam, but from
which they emerged none the wiser about key government policy areas that
affect the private farm sector. A number of subjects, Murillo Jorge
said, were "in process of analysis and study within the context of the
updating the Cuban economic model," naming taxation (of both farmers and
their workers), the contracting of outside labor (stating that more than
100,000 wage workers were employed by cooperatives), and the prices of
inputs and of acopio.

Speaking to the congress of the Communist Party's youth organization in
April 2010 (Granma, 5 April), Raúl Castro acknowledged the existence of
voices urging a faster pace of change. Whether the regime's tempo is
dictated by the magnitude and complexity of the problems facing Cuba, as
he claimed, by divisions among the leadership, by lack of the cash
needed to jump-start major reforms, by incompetence, or by all these, is
an unknown – certainly to outsiders. Specifically in the area of farm
policy, the twists and turns over half a century invite the question: do
the policymakers really understand agriculture and how it develops? When
it comes to the effective application of scientific and technological
advances – highlighted by Murillo Jorge as "an aspect that requires the
greatest immediate attention," for instance, are Cuba's policymakers
sufficiently versed in the agricultural history of other countries to
appreciate the interactions of market forces, farmer-boffins, equipment
manufacturers, chemical companies, plant breeders and agribusinesses,
alongside of public institutions such as experiment stations and
extension services, that drive innovation?

Although located, broadly speaking, towards the opposite end of the
spectrum from the extensive model of agroindustry growth that hit the
buffers in the second half of the 1980s, before the fall of the Berlin
Wall, the concept now being promoted is similarly extensive in several
respects. In pursuit of the goals of replacing imports and increasing
exports of agricultural products, the government campaigns to substitute
human muscle and animal power for engines, compost for inorganic
fertilizers, home-grown animal feedstuffs for concentrates, and
prioritizes the expansion of land under cultivation over raising yields.
Comprehensible, up to a point, as fire-fighting in the midsts of current
economic and financial woes, can these methods generate a serious
improvement in Cuba's agricultural trade balance? While the application
of idle land and labor will surely increase the domestic food supply,
can it make the country anywhere near self-sufficient? Is this model
viable in the longer run?

Disturbingly, in all the hype in favor of using oxen for field work and
transport, there is nary an indication that either the costs of
breeding, rearing, training, feeding and apparelling the animals, or the
productivity of a team, including its driver, taking into account speed
of locomotion and length of working day, have been factored in. Likewise
missing from the hymns to the benefits of compost are signs of awareness
that to make enough compost for general application entails
industrial-scale production techniques with specialized equipment.

To project the picture of a new mentality gestating in the countryside,
Juventud Rebelde located, for its edition on the weekend of the ANAP
congress, a few young farmers earning several times the average national
wage (Varios Autores, 2010). "In my case," said one, "when I get the
money together, I'll buy myself a cellphone, because I need it; let them
tell me that, like other presidents of cooperatives, I don't have with
what to communicate." Twenty-first century aspirations in Cuba, as
elsewhere. For his part, Raúl Castro – spookily bringing to mind
Churchillian rhetoric – proclaimed before the National Assembly on 1
August 2009: "They didn't elect me president to restore capitalism in
Cuba or to surrender the Revolution. I was elected to defend, maintain
and continue perfecting socialism, not to destroy it." For that, he
realized, beans are more important than cannons. Does he understand that
they are more important than command and control?


Barreras Ferrán, Ramón. 2010. "Mirada a lo profundo de la tierra."
Trabajadores, 16 January.

Bosch, Hernán. 2010. "Amplia incorporación campesina a la Agricultura
Suburbana." Granma, 17 February.

Carrobello, Caridad. 2010. "Agricultura Suburbana: Abrazo productivo a
la ciudad." Bohemia, 11 March.

Carrobello, Caridad, and Ariel Terrero. 2009a. "Agricultura: Cuando el
surco suena . . ." Bohemia, 23 December.

Carrobello, Caridad, and Ariel Terrero. 2009b. "Contra la peor de las
plagas posibles." Bohemia, 23 December.

Carrobello, Caridad, and Lázaro de Jesús. 2010. "Controversias en
almíbar" and "¿Quién quiere comprarme frutas…?" Bohemia, 18 June.

"Destacan potencial productivo del sector campesino cubano." 2010.
Granma, 15 January.

"Efectuado pleno del Comité Provincial del partido en la capital." 2009.
Granma, 9 November.

Febles Hernández, Miguel. 2009. "Empresa Láctea en Camagüey: La ruta
crítica." Granma, 5 October.

Fernández, William. 2010. "Congreso campesino trazará pautas para elevar
rendimientos." Granma, 11 May.

Frank, Marc. 2010. "New agricultural reforms: Cuba looks to suburban
farms to boost food output." Reuters, 7 February.

González, Ana Margarita. 2009. "Entrega de tierras (I): Realidades y
manipulaciones." Trabajadores, 6 July. "Entrega de tierras (II): Con
premura, pero sin chapucerías." Trabajadores, 13 July.

González Pérez, Talía. 2009. "Estos 50 años fueron de resistencia y
firmeza del pueblo." Granma, 5 January.

Hagelberg, G.B., and José Alvarez. 2006. "Command and countermand:
Cuba's sugar industry under Fidel Castro." Cuba in Transition–Volume 16,
pp. 123-139. Washington, DC: Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

Hagelberg, G.B., and José Alvarez. 2007. "Cuba's dysfunctional
agriculture: The challenge facing the government." Cuba in
Transition–Volume 17, pp. 144–158. Washington, DC: Association for the
Study of the Cuban Economy.

Hagelberg, G.B., and José Alvarez. 2009. "Cuban agriculture: The return
of the campesinado." Cuba in Transition–Volume 19, pp. 229-241.
Washington: Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

Hernández, Marta. 2010. "Aumenta número de productores agrícolas en Cuba
." Granma, 6 May.

Hernández Porto, Yahily. 2009. "Desarrollan en Camagüey Agricultura
Suburbana." Juventud Rebelde, 10 October.

Luben Pérez, Lino. 2010. "Laboran más de 300 mil cubanos en la
agricultura urbana." Granma, 22 June.

Martín González, Marianela. 2009. "Los pies en el suelo ¿y el grito en
el cielo?" Juventud Rebelde, 23 August.

Martín González, Marianela. 2010. "Alerta joven desde el surco."
Juventud Rebelde, 6 June.

Messina, William A. Jr. 2009. "The 2008 hurricane season and its impact
on Cuban agriculture and trade." Cuba in Transition–Volume 19, pp.
421-28. Washington: Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy.

Nova González, Armando. 2008. "El microcrédito en las nuevas condiciones
de la agricultura." Centro de Estudios de la Economía Cubana,
Universidad de la Habana – Boletín Cuatrimestral, December.

ONE. 2008. Uso y Tenencia de la Tierra en Cuba – Diciembre 2007. La
Habana: Oficina Nacional de Estadísticas

ONE. 2009. Anuario Estadístico de Cuba 2008. Havana: Oficina Nacional de

ONE. 2010. Anuario Estadístico de Cuba 2009. Havana: Oficina Nacional de

ONE, Dirección de Agropecuario. 2010. Sector Agropecuario. Indicadores
Seleccionados, Enero-Marzo 2010. May.

Pérez, Dora, et al. 2009. "La necesidad no tiene ciclo corto." Juventud
Rebelde, 22 March.

Pérez Cabrera, Freddy. 2009. "Contratar bien, esa es la clave." Granma,
2 October.

Pérez Cabrera, Freddy. 2010. "Anuncian medidas para elevar la eficiencia
en la Agricultura." Granma, 15 March.

Rey Veitia, Lourdes, et al. 2010. "Contrapunteo más allá del marabú."
Trabajadores, 3 May.

Riquenes Cutiño, Odalis, 2009. "¡Le zumba el mango!" Juventud Rebelde, 1

Rodríguez Castellón, Santiago. 2003. "La agricultura urbana y la
producción de alimentos: la experiencia de Cuba." Cuba Siglo XXI, No. 30

Sariol Sosa, Sara. 2009. "Pleno del Partido en Granma: Provechoso examen
sobre la producción arrocera." Granma, 29 September.

Terrero, Ariel. 2010. "Caña perdida." Bohemia, 17 May.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2009a. "Impago a los productores agropecuarios:
Fantasma que vuelve a rondar." Granma, 28 September.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2009b. "La agricultura necesita poner en orden sus
fuerzas." Granma, 10 November.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2009c. "Aciertos y desaciertos de las UBPC." Granma,
4 December.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010a. "Ligero aumento de la producción de
alimentos." 8 January.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010b. "Unidades Básicas de Producción Cooperativa:
Ni trabas ni tutelaje." Granma, 19 January.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010c. "¿Volverán los cítricos a llenar tarimas?"
Granma, 22 February.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010d. "Baches en las tarimas ¿pudieron aminorarse?"
Granma, 3 March.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010e. "Frena la burocracia producción de carne
porcina en la capital." Granma, 29 March.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010f. "Faltaron control y exigencia en la zafra."
Granma, 5 May.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010g. "Campesinos traen un soplo de aire fresco."
Granma, 12 May.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010h. "¿Despega la agricultura suburbana?" Granma,
1 July.

Varela Pérez, Juan. 2010i. "Cortar de raíz la indisciplina cañera."
Granma, 9 July.

Varela Pérez, Juan, and Pedro de la Hoz. 2009a. "No dejar que nos
sorprenda el majá." Granma, 8 September

Varela Pérez, Juan, and Pedro de la Hoz. 2009b. "No puede haber lugar
para demoras." Granma, 18 September.

Varela Pérez, Juan, and Pedro de la Hoz. 2009c. "Misión possible."
Granma, 2 October.

Varela Pérez, Juan, and Pedro de la Hoz. 2009d. "Comercialización de
productos agrícolas en la capital: El espejo todavía está invertido."
Granma, 2 November.

Varios Autores. 2010. "Los domadores del 'diablo'." Juventud Rebelde, 16

Cuba extends lease limits for foreign investors

Posted on Tuesday, 08.31.10
Cuba extends lease limits for foreign investors
Cuba has virtually doubled how long foreign investors can lease state
lands, with an eye to developing 16 golf resorts for tourists.

Hoping to lure in golf-playing tourists to Cuba -- and eventually even
U.S. golfers -- the government will allow foreign investors to lease
state lands for 99 years instead of the previous limit of 50 years.

The extension is expected to make Cuba a more attractive place for
foreign developers who already have detailed plans for at least four
golf resorts with seven courses -- including a $1 billion project.

Some foreign investors have been reluctant to commit to the projects
because the 50-year limit was too short and risky, said Antonio Zamora,
a Miami lawyer who researches Cuban real estate issues.

``I think most of them will be OK with the 99-year leases, although
others have told me they will not do it'' unless they can have full
ownership rights to the properties, Zamora added.

Cuba's communist government has kept tight controls on foreign
investments, but a withering economic crisis is forcing it to seek new
financing abroad and expand its tourism industry, one of its sources of

The Official Gazette last week published Decree Law 273, signed by Raúl
Castro on July 19, allowing 99-year leases on properties for foreign
investors though the government continues to own the land. The previous
limit set in 1987 was 50 years, though renewals were allowed.

Still unclear are many issues such as the right to sell or inherit the
properties built on the leased state lands.

The Cuban government owns the overwhelming majority of the land on the
island, though some Cubans who owned small properties before the Castro
revolution in 1959 have been allowed to keep them.

But the decision by Castro, who also has been allowing small but growing
doses of private enterprise by Cubans in hopes of improving the economy,
could give a quick boost to tourism development plans.

The U.S. Congress is considering legislation that would lift the ban on
tourism travel to Cuba, and the Obama administration is expected to
allow a growing number of educational and cultural trips to the island.

Tourism Minister Manuel Marrero announced in August that the government
had approved the creation of 16 golf resorts, ringed by thousands of
condos and villas to be sold only to foreigners. Cuba has only one
18-hole course and one nine-hole course, while the Dominican Republic
has two dozen.

Foreign developers are already well along on proposals for four golf
resorts on Cuba's north coast, including the estimated $1 billion La
Altura mega-project in Bahia Honda west of Havana.

The project, proposed by British and Spanish developers, calls for three
golf courses surrounded by about 3,000 housing units and a marina with
200 slips, according to documents obtained by El Nuevo Herald.

Another group that includes some Native Americans from Canada is
proposing two golf courses with about 2,000 housing units in the
Guardalavaca beach area in eastern Holguín province.

In the Varadero beach resort 100 miles east of Havana, British groups
are proposing one development with a single golf course and about 900
housing units, with some villas costing up to $1 million.

The Bellomonte project on Guanabo beach, just east of Havana, calls for
about 800 units ringing one golf course, plus a small marina.

Cuba recorded 2.4 million foreign tourists last year, a slight increase
over 2008, although revenues have been falling as the Euro and British
pound lost value and the growing number of visiting Cuban exiles chose
to stay with relatives.

The government first allowed foreigners to invest in an estimated 17
luxury condominium developments in Havana in 1995, but then-President
Fidel Castro later halted the building program amid several complaints.

Contracts for the developments in effect allowed third parties to profit
improperly, and made no provisions for companion agreements to develop
housing for Cubans, who face a crushing housing shortage.

The four new golf resorts where the planning is most advanced would all
be located in remote locations.

Vuelos hacia Cuba: EE UU considera improcedente la retención de fondos de las compañías

Vuelos hacia Cuba: EE UU considera improcedente la retención de fondos
de las compañías
Lunes 30 de Agosto de 2010 23:23 DDC

Washington consideró improcedente la retención de los fondos usados por
las compañías de vuelos fletados para pagarle al gobierno de Cuba y
advirtió que la medida podría traer la cancelación de los viajes
directos entre los dos países, informó CaféFuerte.

"Las visitas familiares y otros viajes autorizados dependen grandemente
del servicio de las compañías de fletes, y los vuelos directos son
vitales para el mantenimiento de los contactos que constituyen un
interés de la política estadounidense", declaró Peter M. Brennan,
coordinador de la Oficina de Asuntos Cubanos del Departamento de Estado.

"El congelamiento de los pagos a las compañías autorizadas para volar a
Cuba resultaría en la terminación de los vuelos directos", dijo Brennan,
según la publicación.

El funcionario agregó que "una interrupción de los vuelos fletados
afectaría seriamente la política de Estados Unidos hacia Cuba".

La declaración de Brennan forma parte de la más reciente respuesta de
Washington al intento de la cubanoamericana Ana Margarita Martínez de
embargar las transacciones destinadas a Cuba para cobrar una
compensación millonaria, que ordenó a su favor un tribunal de Miami en 2001.

El documento fue presentado ante un tribunal federal de Miami el pasado
jueves, adjunto a los argumentos del Departamento de Justicia para
rebatir una moción de Martínez, quien pretende retornar el caso a una
corte estatal. Paralelamente fue entregada la respuesta de las ocho
compañías que son objeto de la demanda, y que están representadas por el
abogado Ira Kurzban.

Las compañías involucradas son ABC, Airline Brokers, C&T, Cuba Travel
Services, Gulfstream Air Charter, Marazul, Xael, Wilson International y

lunes, 30 de agosto de 2010

Reconocen "resistencia" de agricultores para el uso de bueyes en Cuba

Reconocen "resistencia" de agricultores para el uso de bueyes en Cuba
Por Agencia EFE – Hace 1 minuto.

La Habana, 30 ago (EFE).- El uso de bueyes en lugar de tractores para
laborar las tierras cubanas se contrapone con la resistencia de algunos
agricultores reacios a entender la necesidad de la tracción animal en
tiempos de crisis.

Según un artículo que hoy recoge el diario oficial Granma, "todavía hay
quienes sueñan con los tractores y el petróleo. Hay por ahí un poco de
resistencia en la gente, acostumbrados a gastar sin medir las
consecuencias de sus actos".

El Gobierno cubano lanzó el pasado año un programa para adiestrar miles
de yuntas de bueyes que suplieran en los campos del país la falta de
tractores y gasolina, insistiendo en las bondades económicas y
ecológicas de la tracción animal frente a las máquinas.

Sin embargo, Granma, en un reportaje sobre la agricultura en Camagüey,
en el este de la isla, reconoce hoy que "esta verdad irrebatible (las
ventajas de los bueyes) ha quedado en algunos lugares en el discurso y
la arenga".

Así, Camagüey registra un déficit de 1.469 yuntas, casi el 50 por ciento
de lo planificado, lo que resulta "paradójico" teniendo en cuenta que
hay en la provincia 41.000 cabezas de res.

"El cumplimiento del plan de doma (de bueyes para yuntas) resulta
irrisorio", concluye Granma, que da cuenta además de la "lentitud" en la
producción de útiles agrícolas tradicionales como arados, gradas,
cultivadoras, surcadoras y carretas.

El Gobierno anunció en el 2008 que la mitad de las áreas cultivables del
país se encontraban sin producir, y determinó una nueva política para
impulsar la producción de alimentos y disminuir las importaciones.

Hasta ahora, se ha entregado en usufructo el 57 por ciento del fondo
inicial de tierras ociosas, pero sólo el 46 por ciento está produciendo,
debido a problemas como el suministro de recursos, las sequías y la
"infección" de los terrenos con plantas de marabú.

El presidente Raúl Castro ha insistido en varias ocasiones en que la
producción de alimentos es un asunto de "seguridad nacional" y ha
reiterado su empeño en activar la producción agrícola de la isla.

Cuba ha estado importando más del 80 por ciento de los víveres que
consumen sus 11,2 millones de habitantes, y en abril pasado el primer
vicepresidente de Cuba, José Ramón Machado, afirmó que el país sigue
gastando más de 1.500 millones de dólares anuales en la compra de alimentos.


Elías Amor Bravo
Economista ULC

( No hay día que nuestra atención hacia las
decisiones económicas que se adoptan en Cuba no se despierte con cierta
desazón e incertidumbre. Hoy nos llega a través de un artículo en
Granma, escrito por Miguel Febles, con el título "Empleo de la tracción
animal: Ponerle el "narigón" a los rezagados" una información que, de
ser cierta, nos ha llamado poderosamente la atención por su debilidad y
falta de racionalidad económica.

En esencia, el régimen castrista considera una prioridad recuperar la
"tracción animal" para la mejora del sector agropecuario en la Isla,
como una forma de reducir el uso de combustibles y de medios mecánicos
como tractores o grúas, que prácticamente han desaparecido de la escena.

Esta decisión supone ir contracorriente. Y así, en vez de recurrir al
empleo de nuevas tecnologías de transporte eficientes en el uso de
combustibles, cuya racionalidad está fuera de duda, el castrismo apuesta
por las "yuntas de bueyes" para funciones ya no sólo en el campo, sino
para la logística de la distribución comercial. Un modelo de agricultura
del siglo XVIII, que ya se ha superado prácticamente en todos los países
del mundo, para una economía que no tiene futuro, como la cubana.

Una breve referencia histórica nos debe ayudar a comprender mejor de qué
estamos hablando.

Dice el artículo: "Hace un año y cuatro meses comenzó por el municipio
de Camagüey una experiencia dirigida a aprovechar, de manera intensiva,
las áreas existentes en los alrededores de esa ciudad de más de 300.000
habitantes, con el propósito de incrementar la producción de alimentos a
través de métodos agroecológicos y económicamente sustentables", y añade
a continuación, "entre los propósitos básicos del novedoso modelo
productivo está desplegar todo el potencial local para materializar los
30 subprogramas previstos, y resulta obvio que en materia de
aseguramiento logístico ocupe un lugar prioritario el uso de la tracción
animal para el laboreo y la transportación de las cosechas, entre otras
funciones tradicionales del campo".

Posiblemente, la interpretación de este programa o subprograma, porque
no se acaba de comprender muy bien de que se trata en la compleja red de
actuaciones del estalinismo corporativo imperante en la economía cubana,
tendría una valoración positiva, si los medios alternativos de
transporte existieran, o se contara con disponibilidades financieras
para ello.

En este caso, la letanía castrista de que los bueyes reducen el consumo
de combustible se podría comprender, salvo en una economía en la que los
piensos y alimentos que nutren a estos animales son más complicados de
obtener que el gasóleo.

El problema de la agricultura cubana es que este es su destino con los
Castro, ser arrastrada por "yuntas de bueyes" como en la época de la
colonia. Pero aquí no termina esta historia anacrónica e impresentable.
Lo mejor está por venir. El artículo de Granma, en esta línea de
autocrítica feroz que se ha abierto en Cuba, excepto a la cúpula
dirigente y su modelo político, viene a resaltar cuál es el problema de
este nuevo modelo.

El problema fundamental está en que no se producen suficientes "yuntas".
El artículo lo señala de forma explícita: "Las cifras ofrecidas por la
Delegación Provincial de la Agricultura en Camagüey indican que, aunque
se ha avanzado, queda un largo trecho por recorrer (…) para cubrir las
necesidades de yuntas de bueyes en las fincas previstas, de acuerdo con
el programa de cada localidad".

Y prosigue, "hasta el cierre de julio —problemas informativos aparte—
las estadísticas arrojaban un déficit en esos territorios de 1.469
yuntas, casi el 50% de lo planificado, pero lo más preocupante no es
eso, sino que a estas alturas del año el cumplimiento del plan de doma
resulta irrisorio, aunque se afirma que existen 553 yuntas en formación".

Como sucede en Cuba, es divertido, y a la vez lamentable, observar que
siempre existen diferencias entre lo planificado y lo realmente
ejecutado: ese es el verdadero significado del embargo, aunque otros lo
sitúen en el exterior. La parálisis de ineficiencia que provoca el
denominado "círculo vicioso de la economía cubana" su incapacidad para
producir lo que necesita.

¿Es éste el futuro de la agricultura cubana? ¿Depender de los pobres
bueyes? Podemos preguntarnos una y mil veces si esta es una solución
para alcanzar los rendimientos a escala que la hagan productiva y
eficiente, con capacidad para dar de comer a toda la población y reducir
la factura de importaciones de alimentos.

Se cuenta con reses para realizar el transporte, pero no hay suficientes
"yuntas" y lo que es peor, no se sabe quién las puede producir. Es el
mismo cuentagotas de ineficiencia productiva de un modelo en el que las
decisiones económicas se trasladan a una cúpula burocrática que cree
conocer mejor que nadie cuáles son las necesidades de la población.

Existe una alternativa, en la economía libre de mercado, para producir,
por medio de empresas privadas libres y propietarias de sus medios de
producción, activos y trabajo, lo que demanda la sociedad. Ensayen esa
fórmula y déjense de "yuntas de bueyes".

Oil exploration in Cuba expected to go ahead

Oil exploration in Cuba expected to go ahead
By Marc Frank in Havana
Published: August 29 2010 22:34

Preparations for full-scale oil exploration are gaining momentum in
Cuba's Gulf of Mexico waters just 50 miles from the US, testing the
limits of the trade embargo on the Caribbean nation.
Castro returns with apocalyptic warnings - Aug-08
Fidel Castro in rare address to Cuban parliament - Aug-08
In depth: Cuba under Raúl - Jun-21
Editorial Comment: Time to bomb Cuba with dollars - Jul-13
Hard-up Cuba weighs costs of reform - Jul-11
Vatican paves the way for dialogue in Cuba - Jun-22

Cubapetroleo, the state oil monopoly, says seven exploration wells are
scheduled for the Cuban waters up to the end of 2012.

A new Chinese deep-water rig, owned by Saipem, a unit of Italian oil
company Eni SpA, is scheduled to leave its shipyard by the end of 2010
for the two-month trek to Cuba.

The rig was built to get around the 10 per cent limit on US technology
demanded under the US trade embargo of Cuba.

Preparatory work is moving ahead at Mariel, a port west of Havana, the
staging area for drilling operations, diplomatic and industry sources
said, and some companies have opened bidding for well casing.

"It is ridiculous that Repsol, a Spanish oil company, is paying an
Italian firm to build an oil rig in China that will be used next year to
explore for oil 50 miles from Florida," Sarah Stephens, executive
director of the Center for Democracy in the Americas, said.

Ms Stephens, whose Washington-based organisation opposes US sanctions,
led the first US energy-related fact-finding mission by congressional
staff and experts to Havana in July. They concluded Cuba was determined
to sink wells and with them the embargo.

Embargo opponents in Washington are backing legislation that would allow
US groups to participate in Cuba's offshore oil development, while
proponents plan legislation that would impose sanctions on the foreign
groups that do. Florida politicians, who have banned drilling off their
coast, and Cuban-American lawmakers, have raised fears of an accident
such as the one on BP's Deepwater Horizon rig. According to industry and
diplomatic sources, companies from Spain, India, Norway and perhaps
Malaysia – all US allies – have already contracted the rig, while
others, from Vietnam, Venezuela and Brazil are not far behind.

Russian and Chinese companies are negotiating to obtain offshore blocks
or partner with the other companies. Repsol drilled the only offshore
well in Cuba's waters in 2004. It said at the time that it had found
hydrocarbons, but not in a commercially viable amount. Since then,
according to Manuel Marrero Faz, oil adviser to Cuba's Ministry of Basic
Industry, extensive seismic work has revealed 15 sites with a high
probability of oil.

Mr Marrero estimates Cuba has up to 20bn barrels of oil in its offshore
areas, while the US Geological Survey puts the figure at a more modest
4.6bn barrels and 10,000bn cu feet of gas.

Cuba currently produces about 60,000 barrels of oil per day, all from
onshore wells. It imports about 115,000 b/d from ally Venezuela on
favourable terms.

The Obama administration has refrained from denouncing Cuba's drilling
plans and appears to favour limited co-operation.

The administration recently said it would allow US companies that handle
and clean up oil spills to operate in Cuban waters should the need arise
and granted approval for executives from the Houston-based International
Association of Drilling Contractors to visit Cuba last week. Lee Hunt,
association president, told the Financial Times he was impressed by
Cuba's preparations and regulatory regime, which included measures his
group had proposed to the Obama administration after the BP disaster.

He added: "There is one Gulf shared by three countries. We are promoting
co-operation between their industries to insure the unfortunate events
that occurred in Mexico and more recently in the United States do not
happen here".

Jorge Piñon, a visiting research fellow at the Cuban Research Institute
of the Florida International University, said more should be done to
wean Cuba from energy dependence on Venezuela and insure safety.

"The United States should enable oil companies working in Cuba access to
equipment and technology that would allow the monetisation of Cuba's
hydrocarbon resources in a safe and responsible manner," Mr Pinon added.

domingo, 29 de agosto de 2010

Sequía tiene embalses debajo del 50% de su capacidad

Sequía tiene embalses debajo del 50% de su capacidad

Cuba esta en alerta ante una persistente sequía de más de un año que
tiene los embalses en menos de la mitad de su capacidad. Seguir leyendo
el arículo

Las precipitaciones por encima de lo calculado que se registraron en la
isla en el mes de julio, en comparación con la media histórica, "no
compensan el déficit acumulado en las reservas acuíferas de Cuba",
reportó el domingo la agencia cubana de información.

De acuerdo al ingeniero Argelio Fernández Richelme, especialista del
Instituto Nacional de Recursos Hidráulicos (INRH), en todo el país "se
mantiene un volumen embalsado inferior al 50%".

La ingeniera Gisel Pérez Wong consideró que la isla vive "diferentes
grados de estrés hídrico", y precisó que de los 76 embalses que
abastecen a la población 13 están en un nivel inferior al 25% de su
capacidad y solo "tres se encuentran vertiendo".

El sector agrícola es el más golpeado por la sequía.

Cuba moves to attract investors

Posted on Sat, Aug. 28, 2010
Cuba moves to attract investors
Changes could spark boom in golf courses.
By Will Weissert
Associated Press

HAVANA - Cuba has issued a pair of surprising free-market decrees,
allowing foreign investors to lease government land for up to 99 years -
potentially touching off a golf-course building boom - and loosening
state controls on commerce to let islanders grow and sell their own
fruit and vegetables.

The moves, published into law in the Official Gazette on Thursday and
Friday and effective immediately, are significant steps as President
Raul Castro promises to scale back the communist state's control of the
economy while attempting to generate revenue for a government short on cash.

"These are part of the opening that the government wants to make, given
the country's situation," said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a state-trained
economist who is now an anticommunist dissident.

Cuba said that it was modifying its property laws "with the aim of
amplifying and facilitating" foreign investment in tourism, and that
doing so would provide "better security and guarantees to the foreign

A small army of investors from Canada, Europe, and Asia have been
waiting to crack the market for long-term tourism in Cuba, built on
drawing well-heeled visitors who could live part time on the island
instead of just hitting the beach for a few days.

It may also help the country embrace golf tourism. Investment firms have
for decades proposed building lavish 18-hole courses ringed by luxury
housing under long-term government leases. Cuba has just two golf
courses, and the Tourism Ministry has said it wants to build at least 10

Endorsing 99-year property agreements might be a first step toward
making some golf developments a reality but also makes it easy to
imagine a Cuban coastline dotted with timeshares, luxury villas, and
other hideaways that could serve as second homes.

Cuba has allowed leases of state land for up to 50 years with the option
to extend them for an additional 25, but foreign investors had long
pressed tourism officials to endorse 99-year lease deals.

"I think this is huge. This is probably one of the most significant
moves in recent years relative to attracting foreign investment," said
Robin Conners, CEO of Vancouver-based Leisure Canada, which plans to
begin construction next year on a luxury hotel in Havana.

But John Kavulich, a senior policy adviser for the U.S.-Cuba Trade and
Economic Council in New York, said: "I don't think it's going to open a

The decree allowing expanded sale of farm products, meanwhile, could
have far greater impact on ordinary Cubans. It authorizes them to
produce their own agricultural goods - from melons to milk, on a small
scale - and sell them from home or special kiosks on their property.

Read more:
Watch sports videos you won't find anywhere else

Cuba's reform

Cuba's reform
Saudi Gazette - 29 August, 2010

It has been more than obvious for years that the Communist economic
model was doomed to failure. It came as no surprise in Eastern Europe,
especially, that once the Soviet Union disbanded, the former satellites
rushed to implement capitalist reforms. Finally, nearly 20 years
following the collapse of the Soviet Union, one of its most significant
client states, Cuba, has finally implemented the kind of land reform
laws that will increase its capitalist bent and result in spurring the
income and standard of living of its people.
Raul Castro, who has been running Cuba's government since his brother
Fidel's health problems threatened the old revolutionary's life.
Although the early signs were that he would continue his brother's
hard-line communist policies, he has just signed new laws allowing
foreigners to lease government land for up to 99 years and allowing
individuals to grow fruits and vegetables privately instead of as part
of the government.
Allowing foreigners to lease land will likely result in a slew of new
golf courses and condominiums lining some of Cuba's world-famous
beaches. Investors are expecting that the new laws will allow foreigners
to actually live part-time on the island as opposed to just visiting for
vacations. The new construction will also result in hundreds of jobs for
locals and should spur a number of support businesses for those who will
take up residence in the new buildings.
The relaxation of laws governing private sale of farm goods is likely to
have a more immediate effect on the common Cuban, who now will be able
to run small businesses based on selling their own produce. In a country
where 95 percent of the working population is employed by the
government, relaxing controls on small business will have a huge effect.
The demise of the Soviet Union should have meant the demise of
Communism, whose promises of equality never panned out. Cuba, sitting
just 90 miles from Miami, stubbornly refused to follow the zeitgeist and
now finds itself forced to make capitalist reforms.
May the Cuban people profit from their government's new thinking.

sábado, 28 de agosto de 2010

Cuba amplía la terminal que recibe vuelos directos de EE.UU. en La Habana

Cuba amplía la terminal que recibe vuelos directos de EE.UU. en La Habana
Por Agencia EFE

La Habana, 28 ago (EFE).- El Gobierno cubano inició la ejecución de
obras para ampliar una terminal del aeropuerto internacional de La
Habana, que es la que recibe los vuelos procedentes de Estados Unidos.

Según informaron hoy medios oficiales cubanos, a partir del próximo 1 de
septiembre los vuelos que regularmente operan por la terminal número dos
del aeropuerto "José Martí" serán trasladados temporalmente a otro
puerto, debido a las obras de ampliación.

La Empresa Cubana de Aeropuertos y Servicios Aeronáuticos (ECASA) está a
cargo de los trabajos de inversión, los cuáles no se precisa cuándo

La terminal número dos del aeropuerto "José Martí" de La Habana opera
con los vuelos entre Cuba y Estados Unidos (principalmente Miami), que
fluctúan entre cuatro y siete viajes diarios, aunque en ocasiones pueden
haber más.

El año pasado aproximadamente 50.000 estadounidenses de origen no cubano
viajaron a la isla, además de unos 300.000 cubanos residentes en el
exterior, la mayoría en Estados Unidos, de acuerdo con datos del
Ministerio de Turismo.

El titular de esa cartera, Manuel Marrero, resaltó en mayo pasado el
crecimiento de las visitas de los emigrados cubanos, principalmente
procedentes de Estados Unidos, y dijo que en esa fecha su número había
crecido en un 50% en comparación con 2009.

El presidente de EE.UU., Barack Obama, alivió en 2009 las restricciones
que tenían los cubanoestadounidenses para viajar a la isla, aunque los
estadounidenses aún requieren de licencias especiales del Departamento
de Estado para hacerlo, debido al bloqueo económico y comercial que
Washington aplica a La Habana desde 1962.

Tras las medidas de Obama, los cubanoestadounidenses pueden visitar a
sus familias todos los años, en vez de cada tres, así como quedarse el
tiempo que deseen y gastar dólares sin límite.

Fue el anterior mandatario de EE.UU., George W.Bush (2001-2009), el que
endureció las restricciones para viajar a Cuba en 2004 y debido a sus
políticas la cifra de estadounidenses que se desplazaron ese año a la
isla cayó en casi un 50%.

En Estados Unidos hay cerca de dos millones de cubanos y familiares, la
mayoría en La Florida, y en California se calcula que residen cerca de
100.000 cubanoestadounidenses.

Markets grow freer in Cuba

Markets grow freer in Cuba

Cuba has issued two surprising free-market decrees, allowing foreign
investors to lease government land for up to 99 years and loosening
state controls on commerce to let islanders grow and sell their own
fruit and vegetables.
The Associated Press

HAVANA — Cuba has issued two surprising free-market decrees, allowing
foreign investors to lease government land for up to 99 years —
potentially touching off a golf-course building boom — and loosening
state controls on commerce to let islanders grow and sell their own
fruit and vegetables.

The moves, published into law in the Official Gazette on Thursday and
Friday and effective immediately, are significant steps as President
Raul Castro promises to scale back the communist state's control of the
economy while attempting to generate new revenue for a government short
on cash.

Cuba said it was modifying its property laws "with the aim of amplifying
and facilitating" foreign investment in tourism.

Investors in Canada, Europe and Asia have been waiting to crack the
market for long-term tourism in Cuba, built on drawing well-heeled
visitors who could live part time on the island instead of just hitting
the beach for a few days.

The change may also help the country embrace golf tourism. Investment
firms have for decades proposed building lavish 18-hole courses ringed
by luxury housing under long-term government leases.

Cuba has just two golf courses; the Tourism Ministry has said it wants
to build at least 10 more.

Endorsing 99-year property agreements also makes it easy to imagine a
Cuban coastline dotted with time shares, luxury villas and other
hideaways that could serve as second homes.

"This is probably one of the most significant moves in recent years
relative to attracting foreign investment," said Robin Conners, CEO of
Vancouver, B.C.-based Leisure Canada, which plans to begin construction
next year on a luxury hotel in Havana. It also wants to build hotels,
villas and two championship golf courses on a beach in Jibacoa, 40 miles
to the east.

Cuba has allowed leases of state land for up to 50 years with the option
to extend them for an additional 25, but foreign investors had long
pressed tourism officials to endorse 99-year deals.

The decree allowing expanded sale of farm products, meanwhile, could
have far greater impact on ordinary Cubans. It authorizes them to
produce their own agricultural goods — from melons to milk — and sell
them from home or in kiosks. They must pay taxes on any earnings.

Cubans already sell fruits, pork, cheese and other items on the sides of
highways, fleeing into the bushes when the police happen past. Friday's
measure would legalize such practices, while ensuring the state takes a cut.

More land for small farmers

More land for small farmers
28 Aug 2010

More government land to Cuban small farmers to help boost food production

The Cuban government has awarded in usufruct over a million hectares to
small farmers one of the main reforms promoted by President Raúl Castro
to help the country's economy recover from its deep recession and cut
the huge imported food bill that conditions Cuban international reserves.

In September 2008 the Cuban government approved a bill to hand idle land
for its exploitation under an usufruct regime, after admitting that over
half of the islands' farm land remained untilled and non productive.

All the land in Cuba is in government hands but only 60% is currently in
production. Government run farms and cooperatives only manage to supply
30% of the country's food demand. Sugar production which was closely
linked to Cuban farming when the Castro brothers and the revolution took
over half a century ago stood then at more than seven million tons.

The latest harvests are in the range of a million tons making the
economy basically dependent on tourism and nickel.

President Raul Castro since taking over from his ailing brother and
leader Fidel has gradually opened the economy to small private
enterprises and one of the clue instruments has been food production,
described as a matter of "national security" to help reduce imports and
the drain on foreign exchange reserves.

"This is an effort to revitalize an agriculture sector hampered by
decades of government mismanagement" said Raul Castro.

"Of the land awarded so far over half has been for livestock; 26.8% for
vegetables and beans and 7.7% for rice", said Pedro Olivera head of the
National Centre for the Control of Land.

Speaking with Juventud Rebelde one of the government's newspaper that is
more intrepid in pushing for the reforms, Olivera said that "only 46% of
the land delivered so far is now in production".

The bottle neck has been that "the government is the only source of seed
and fertilizer and the Cuban bureaucracy had been unable to deliver".

But small farmers said the Cuban government has begun for the first time
to open supply shops where they can buy and bargain for input, tools and
other agriculture provisions under a free system,
"another of the steps implemented by the government to boost farming
which still remains highly centralized".

Nevertheless small farms more than double the production of government
managed land.
As part of the sweeping economic reforms Raul Castro recently announced
that one fifth of the government workers will have to find jobs in the
private sector. In other words a million jobs would be slashed from the
state's payroll.

He added that the government has agreed to expand the range of
self-employment jobs, and their use as another alternative for workers
who lose their jobs".

This is not the first Cuban experience of opening to the private sector.
Some years ago thriving self employed little service businesses,
especially restaurants, were extremely successful.

But it also aroused resentment among the population and the government
of Fidel Castro sensitive to the political outcome, burdened the budding
private sector with taxes and regulations, making licences harder to
obtain until the self employed sector was largely paralyzed.


Cuba allows foreigners to own land

Cuba allows foreigners to own land
Saturday, 28 August 2010

Cuba issued a pair of surprising free-market decrees, allowing foreign
investors to lease government land for up to 99 years - potentially
touching off a golf-course building boom - and loosening state controls
on commerce to let islanders grow and sell their own fruit and vegetables.

The moves, published into law in the Official Gazette on Thursday and
Friday and effective immediately, are significant steps as President
Raul Castro promises to scale back the communist state's control of the
economy while attempting to generate new revenue for a government short
on cash.

"These are part of the opening that the government wants to make given
the country's situation," said Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a state-trained
economist who is now an anti-communist dissident.

Cuba said it was modifying its property laws "with the aim of amplifying
and facilitating" foreign investment in tourism, and that doing so would
provide "better security and guarantees to the foreign investor".

A small army of investors in Canada, Europe and Asia have been waiting
to crack the market for long-term tourism in Cuba, built on drawing
well-heeled visitors who could live part-time on the island instead of
just hitting the beach for a few days.

It may also help the country embrace golf tourism.

Investment firms have for decades proposed building lavish 18-hole
courses ringed by luxury housing under long-term government leases.

Cuba currently has just two golf courses nationwide, but the Tourism
Ministry said it wants to build at least 10 more.