Cuba Frees Farmers To Sell To Havana Markets

Cuba, yielding to public complaints, said June 11 it would allow farmers to sell more food directly to Havana’s often sparse produce markets, and also replaced the country’s agriculture minister.

Farmers have long said the state failed to adequately move their produce to market, while consumers have complained food is often scarce and of poor quality.

State-run television announced during its nightly newscast that 56 of the capital’s 400 markets were already being supplied directly by farmers, with plans to include 88 others in the “new food sales strategy” by July.

The announcement appeared to be an admission that a much touted plan introduced 18 months ago to improve state distribution of produce, had failed.

Under the plan, communist authorities shifted state distribution from the Agriculture Ministry to the Interior Trade Ministry in a move to solve bottlenecks. The experiment came under fire by farmers, consumers and the media.

Private co-operatives and farmers produce 70 per cent of the food in the country on 41 per cent of the land, with the rest owned and worked by the state.

Cuba’s economy is more than 90 per cent controlled by the state, which has monopolized the sale of farm inputs such as fertilizer and the sale of produce.

Agriculture Minister Ulises Rosales del Toro, a general who for many years was sugar minister before moving to agriculture in 2007, was replaced by the ministry’s first vice-minister, Gustavo Rodriguez.

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