Monday, March 23, 2009

A little help, please

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.

Cuba’s private farmers are their country’s most productive, and it’s good news that the state seems to be on the road to expanding the number of privados working the land. If the roadblocks to productivity are removed – Is this article a sign that someone wants them removed? – there will be new jobs, more food production, and less need to import food.

And unlike other economic challenges, such as finding offshore oil or boosting tourism, the decisions on agriculture are entirely in Cuban hands.

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

and this is a perfect example as to how some changes, and possible reforms, can take place internally. of course many challenges to overcome, but at least the energy is there for looking at things with a fresh approach, and decentralization is a great start. maybe to be applied in other sectors. regardless, making agriculture more efficient is the most important thing the govt can do. let's see where it leads.

Lazaro Gonzalez said...

If Agriculture is the one sector where the Raul Castro government has put forward a comprehensive reform and Juventud Rebelde tells about a few examples whats' going there I don't like to here aobut other sectors.

Anonymous said...

if the government really wanted to alleviate hunger and end the country's dependence on foreign suppliers for food (the fact that cuba has to import food in the first place is ridiculous) it could allocate resources away from MINIT and direct it to the construction of a country, and not its destrution. the solution is IN cuba, not IN the united states.

Anonymous said...

Since they require farmers to sell 90% of their crops to the govt., the govt. should at least pay market prices for those products. The remaining 10% then could be sold directly to people at lower prices. Since farmers would be making a real profit when selling to the govt. they could keep a part of what is left for their own consumption and sell the surplus to people, without the pressure of having to make a living. Prices at farmes market could come down. But the govt. wil never do that. As things are now, the govt. pays the farmers peanuts for their produce and the farmers, in turn, have to hike the price of the portion the are allowed to sell dirctly to the people, in order to make some real money.

leftside said...

First off, this report in JR is another important example of critical journalism that Cuba's critics don't believe can exist.

Anon 1, decentralization sounds great. But as Phil points out, further central Government action is the missing link here. And the central government is what made this whole land give-away possible.

Anon 2, I am sure Cuba would be happy to move more resources from national security and defense to productive sectors. They already have done a good deal of that in the last 15 years. To do more, obviously the best thing to happen would be for the US to drop its policy of regime change and subversion on the island.

Anon 3, if the Government were to pay "market prices" (ie. the current price at the private markets) for 90% of food produced, the result would be mass hunger. There would be no food for the ration books and very little for work places and schools. Sure farmers would live like kings - but many already do. That 50,000 were ready to drop everything to become farmers tells us that the main problem is not with the incentive system for farmers.

And Phil, I thought providing credits for the purchase of supplies was part of the announced ag plan. What happened?

Anonymous said...

leftside
correct, jr is a great source for what's happening in cuba; they've been at the forefront of many critical ideas -- and that's something you never hear about.
Again correct, if the US lifted the siege against cuba so much precious resources could be diverted and put to better use. funny how that point never makes an impression on the other side
The point on decentralization is that the Cuban government realizes that local responses have had positive results, and that's vital to continue improvements in the agr business especial. The missing link is govt support but that doesn't preclude more local involvement to solve those difficulties.
raul's perspective has been to deal with the unwieldy amount of bureaucracy, and if there is movement towards addressing that in other sections (the central govt will always have a role to play) then i don't see that as a bad thing. Here's a perfect example of Cuba trying to solve problems internally (and they've done that many times in the past 50 years) but the US must end it criminal embargo and threats for cuba to continue in its efforts to improve economically

leftside said...

Fair enough anon 5:43. My point there was only to acknowledge that decentralization has its own limitations, particularaly in regards to agriculture. Most significant ag policy, even in the US, is directed from the Federal level. In Cuba, the State has taken on the responsibility of making sure everyone is fed adequately. This requries some central planning and controls. But I think Cuba is trying to find the right mix and am excited to see how this shakes out.

cabrĂ³n said...

Newsflash for The Cuban Triangle readers: Socialism doesn't work....

Anonymous said...

newsflash for cabron;
in US it does; socialize the losses, privatize the profits
ever heard of Canada, Europe -- they are socialized countries and their systems work a heck of a lot better than the broken economic and political model the US tries to convince the world is the best. that's a snake oil no longer being bought.

Anonymous said...

leftside
again point taken, central direction in ag is still needed to ensure there is food for all (try other 3rd world countries with proportions literally starving in street, that's not a problem in cuba)
and US ag industry business is controlled by state legislation; both internally and for international aspects; see the damage done to third world ag economies thanks to predatory practices of the US ag industry (gm seeds that farmers in India and elsewhere forced to buy and destroying thousands of years of farming practices.)
American socialism in agriculture, military, financial, pharmaceutical. Socialism for the rich and powerful that is, 19th century capitalism for the rest. Sorry Cabron, lots of socialism in America, what, you think the police, fire etc are private?

Anonymous said...

There is no US siege of Cuba. That is crazy. There is no interest on the part of the US govt. in overthrowing the Castros, destabilizing their dictatorship etc. On the contrary. So stop that lunacy. It sounds good, heroic, and a good fake excuse for Cuba's govt. not doing what it should do for the people. And there is no socialim- or anything- to speak of in Cuba.

Anonymous said...

anon 840
seriously, you're kidding right? you have to be kidding, please say you're kidding. because if not, you really need to get off the cuba forum and seek help. NO siege? No interest in overthrowing the Castros? what the heck has the last 50 years been about, the embargo, Bay of Pigs, isolation, terrorism, Cuban Adjustment act, Helms Burton, etc etc etc. What the heck is that all about? Oh, wait, maybe you subscribe to the theory that all the American aggression against Cuba has been designed to help prop up the regime In that case you're forgiven.
Crazy, yeah, good description of it.

Anonymous said...

I agree with left-side... the right wing wackos (i.e. the miami mafia, babalu types) have no place in future free cuba. I know many real cubans living in Cuba, they would spit on babalu -types just as quick as the pro. communist types if they would.

Anonymous said...

Lefty is right, as usual! The problem with Cuban socialism is that, for fifty years, it has never been given a chance!

And thanks also to the genius who points out that REAL Cubans would spit on those "right-wing Cubans" abroad who DARE to disagree witht he Revolutionary Authorities! After all, don't ALL Cubans say the same thing in the pages of Granma, JR, etc.? What more needs to be said?

leftside said...

Socialism is not an easy proscription of policies. Like Cuban socialism shows, it is constantly learning and evolving. Only free-marketeers think they have it all figured out - letting the market decide the fate of families and communities. Socialism only says that we can do better by thinkingm, by planning, by directing resources as best reflects our values. Agriculture in Cuba was doing quite well actually, until the sons and daughters of farmers decided to leave the land for better opportunities during the (relatively) prosperous 70s and 80s. Now the greatest need is to re-populate the land - something that only socail control of the land can allow to take place with the efficacy we are seeing now in Cuba.

Anonymous said...

well put left side:

"Only free-marketeers think they have it all figured out - letting the market decide the fate of families and communities."

I may add that free-marketeers only care about 40 percent of population. In market economy as US, its structural outcome of 15 percetn underemployment and 25 percent without health insurance.

Cuba should adapt, but more like China or even Sweden,... certainly it should not imitate hardcore savage us economic system.

Further, its questionaable whether perhiperhal third world countries should mirror policies of giant hegemons, be it us or russia. Small island states have a unique place in global economy , they need to be careful not to become produce of bad jobs and exploitation (i.e, see Hati, jamica, DR is not so great either).

cabron said...

here's an idea: why don't the Cuban people themselves get a chance to decide for themselves what kind of system they want instead of being dictated to for the past 50 years?

Anonymous said...

cabron; they've decided for the past 50 years to support the regime as they are seen as the only historically legitimate entity to cuban nationalism and self-determination. Get your head out of the sand, or anywhere else, and quit the same old song and dance we've heard for half a century. get over it, it's so boring. you want to believe the real cubans in cuba don't support Fidel, despite all the failings, then go ahead. but i hate to break it to you, there's no Easter bunny either.
Dictated to, that's all in Miami isn't it, where you gusanos have been dictating policy for the rest of the United States through your narrow, hateful eyes.

Anonymous said...

and just on what do you base your assertion that the Cuban people "support" the regime -- credible elections? independent public opinion polls? or the mere fact that the regime is still standing? if it's the latter then I guess military regimes like Stroessner or Trujillo must have been among the most popular governments of all time!

Anonymous said...

governments come and go, cuba history is that of rebellion against governments,their own and foreign imposed. elections aren't always barometer of legitimacy, just ask Bush in 2000 and 04. You just can't get past the fact that the majority of Cubans still consider the regime legitimate, in large part based on patria. that doesn't mean change and reform is not desired, only that it is wanted under the parameters of the current regime, not its destruction as you want. Accept that and you'll live longer.
You talk of Trujillo, oh you mean the dictatorship supported by the Americans for so long until he was no longer useful. Another cuban myth the righties keep chanting, 50 years, keep banging your head on the wall.

Anonymous said...

you never answered the question...

Anonymous said...

That is why I admire Pinochet so much, because he had the cojones and took the time and effort to eliminate the communist scumbags from the earth and sent them to hell where they rightfully belong. I wish we have had a Pinochet in Cuba instead of a wimpy SOB like Batista who let Castro and his brother alive and then pardoned them after 22 months in jail, for them to come back and do away with the regime and implement a totalitarian dictatorship.
The only good socialists and communists I know are all dead.

Anonymous said...

the answer is the cuban people, in cuba, who live with the govt day to day legitimize it. this isn't brain surgery, if they wanted it gone it would be, like they did to batista, machado, the spanish etc etc

anon 229; gee, another poster boy for the Cuban government's position. come on down to havana and you'll have a wonderful time. but please don't pout.

Anonymous said...

so that's it...because it's still there? some standard...

Anonymous said...

what other standard do you want?