54% Of Land Given To Farmers Lies Fallow
Two years after the Cuban government began land handouts to individuals interested in having parcels to labor, 54% of the one million hectares destined to private farmers are still not growing anything.
According to Armando Nova of the Cuban Economy Studies Center, land handouts should have started long before. In 2008, when this process began, Cuba had to spend $2.5 billion on food imports alone.
Through August 2010, some 100,000 people had received parcels of land through this process, said Pedro Olivera, director of the National Center of Land Control. He attributed delays in making the land productive to drought as well as bureaucracy in the handing out of parcels.
The land under this system still belongs to the state, but proceeds from sales of farm products go to those who work the land. Olivera admitted the land was delivered with high levels of marabu infestation, not to mention lack of farm tools and resources.
During the first half of 2010, food production fell 10% compared to the same period in 2009, including staples like beans (-27%), rice (-2%) and green vegetables (-22%), according to data published by the National Statistics Office (ONE in Spanish).
Nova also criticized contracts which force farmers to sell to the state 70% of total production at fixed prices that are much lower than those on the free market. Even though land leases are for a 10-year period subject to renewal, Nova said all cases aren’t equal, since some crops are short-cycle ones and others like fruit or lumber trees require years to produce. Out of a total 133,000 applications, 83% have been approved, say official statistics.