October 20, 2010 - 11:29AM
Keen to foster greater domestic food production, communist Cuba has
vastly expanded a nationwide network of farm supply stores, an official
said on Tuesday.
"We started some months back with about 10 products (boots, gloves,
machetes) and now we have almost 20. We are hoping to get 40 products by
this year," said interior ministry official Arturo Vazquez.
"We need to get these products closer to producers. So far the reaction
has been great," Vazquez said on state television, adding that 1,100
stores were now up and running.
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Before the shops were introduced, potential farm producers had to buy
even simple farm supplies in hard currency -- a tremendous hardship in a
country where the monthly salary is the equivalent of about $US17 ($A17.61).
Machetes, for example, might cost $US12 ($A12.43) in a hard-currency
store. At the new government shops they are 80 pesos or $US3.3 ($A3.42).
President Raul Castro is desperately trying to slash the massive
percentage of the government budget that goes on food imports.
In 2008 his government started handing out fallow state land to Cubans
willing to farm it. But the popularity of the program was undercut by
farm supplies being in extremely short supply.
More than 60 per cent of cash-strapped Cuba's arable land, which totals
1.6 million hectares lies fallow, in a Caribbean nation.
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