Saturday, June 12, 2010

Cuba frees farmers to sell to Havana markets

Cuba frees farmers to sell to Havana markets

Cuba, yielding to public complaints, said it would allow farmers to sell
more food directly to Havana's often sparse produce markets.
Saturday, 12 June 2010 13:13

Cuba, yielding to public complaints, said on Friday 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.

"We are preparing the sales process of the producers, including
individual farmers who can now come to our markets with their products
fresh from the earth, without any bureaucracy," said Luis Grillo,
director of Havana's produce markets said.

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

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 cooperatives and farmers produce 70 percent of the food in the
country on 41 percent of the land, with the rest owned and worked by the

Cuba's economy is more than 90 percent 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.

The brief government communique said Rosales, who is also a vice
president of the Council of Ministers, would now have more time to
dedicate "to the strategic task of steadily increasing agricultural

President Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother Fidel in
2008, has gradually allowed farmers in the provinces to sell a portion
of their produce directly to consumers as part of efforts to increase
production, but had balked at doing the same in Havana with its 2.2
million consumers and hundreds of state-run markets.

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