“The urgency of reducing imports and increasing food production has
accelerated solutions to this old problem…”
Cuba’s Agriculture Ministry will cut thousands of bureaucratic jobs and reorganize its large state-run farms into smaller plots in a bid to reverse steadily declining food output, official media said Nov. 10.
Communist Party newspaper Granma said that 89,000 employees at state farms, or 26 per cent of their workforce, are office workers and that the sector suffers from an “excess of unproductive personnel.”
It said at least 10 per cent of those jobs will be eliminated starting in December with the aim of “reducing bosses and functionaries and substituting departments with specialists and technicians on the farms.”
Granma said the sector’s workforce is being reorganized into “worker collectives” of no more than 10 individuals who will be assigned specific plots of land, or fincas, for which they will be responsible.
Their pay will be based on performance, Granma said.
The changes are the latest by President Raul Castro as he wrestles with ways to increase agricultural production and, in turn, reduce food imports that are draining Cuba’s coffers. Cuba imports between 60 per cent and 70 per cent of its food.
Soon after Raul Castro took over the presidency from ailing brother Fidel Castro last year, he decentralized agriculture decision-making, increased prices paid for produce and launched a massive land-lease program to put more land in private hands.
Nevertheless, agricultural production was down 7.4 per cent this year through September compared to the same period in 2008. Much of the decline was blamed on damage to banana plantations by hurricanes last year.
Cuba is currently undergoing a financial crisis that has forced drastic reductions in imports and state budgets, and created the need for the latest changes, Granma said.
“The urgency of reducing imports and increasing food production has accelerated solutions to this old problem that creates bureaucracy, increases costs, hampers production, creates disorder and limits worker earnings,” it said.
Pilot programs have shown that bureaucracy can be cut at least in half without difficulties, the newspaper said.
At one state farm in Havana province, it said the number of supervisors was reduced from 91 to 15 and the land divided into 130 fincas, which led to greater diversification of products.
International agriculture analyst Jerry Hagelberg said it remains to be seen if the reorganization will boost food output.
“Time will tell whether this measure will be much more successful than previous failed attempts to raise efficiency, as long as these farms continue to be run by the state, the marketing of farm products remains controlled by the state, and Cuban agriculture does not get the necessary capital and production inputs,” he said.
Cuba had around 250,000 family farms and 1,100 private co-operatives before the land-lease program began, which together produced around 70 per cent of the country’s produce on less than one-third of the land.
FROZEN IN TIME: A car drives on a road beside state-owned agriculture land near the village of Quivican, near Havana. Cuba has around 250,000 family farms and 1,100 private co-operatives, which together produce about 70 per cent of the country’s food on less than one-third of the cultivated land; the remainder of the land is owned by the state, and half of that lies fallow.