Agriculture is the one sector where the Raul Castro government has put forward a comprehensive reform: increased prices paid to producers, distribution of idle state lands to private farmers, changes in the distribution system, and a restructuring of the bureaucracy to decentralize decisionmaking.
There have been many reports (mine is here) on the first two tasks, which are clearly proceeding. As for the others, the picture isn’t so clear.
A long article in yesterday’s Juventud Rebelde reports that the state has given parcels of idle land to 56,000 applicants, 80 percent of which had no land before.
That’s the good part.
The rest of the story, Juventud Rebelde’s reporters found, is that the new farmers don’t always have what they need to produce.
The new farmers are eager to work their land and have knocked themselves out clearing it of weeds and brush, the report says. But it found cases where they don’t have the tools they need, they can’t get wire to fence off their land to prevent grazing, or they can’t acquire fuel even after arranging for a tractor to come work their land.
One farmer wishes that officials would visit for some reason other than “to ask when I’m going to deliver” product to market.
The report recounts that in Ciego de Avila, a bumper crop of tomatoes couldn’t be handled by the state enterprise that should buy them because, according to a local, “the industry was saturated [with supply] and Acopio [the enterprise] doesn’t have vehicles” to collect the crop.
An analyst cited in the article summed up that the new farmers are “beginning to be part of a large system, Cuban agriculture, and it is a chain with many rusty links that do not always connect well.”
The anecdotes in the article call out for a simple solution: credits to allow individual farmers to buy supplies, fuel, and labor, and to pay back at harvest time. It’s a solution, the report says, that many farmers are suggesting.
Credits might not solve all supply problems in a system where the state alone imports and retails farm supplies, but they would certainly help. The article doesn’t include any comments or interviews on the credit question or other policy issues.
And unlike other economic challenges, such as finding offshore oil or boosting tourism, the decisions on agriculture are entirely in Cuban hands.