The Paradox of Cuban Agriculture

Miguel A. A ltieri and Fernando R. Funes - Monzot e
Friday 6 January 2012 by LRAN

When Cuba faced the shock of lost trade relations with the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s, food production initially collapsed due to the loss of imported fertilizers, pesticides, tractors, parts, and petroleum. The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean. But the island rapidly re-oriented its agriculture to depend less on imported synthetic chemical inputs, and became a world-class case of ecological agriculture.1 This was such a successful turnaround that Cuba rebounded to show the best food production performance in Latin America and the Caribbean over the following period, a remark- able annual growth rate of 4.2 percent per capita from 1996 through 2005, a period in which the regional average was 0 percent.

Much of the production rebound was due to the adoption since the early 1990s of a range of agrarian decentralization policies that encouraged forms of production, both individual as well as cooperative—Basic Units of Cooperative Production (UBPC) and Credit and Service Cooperatives (CCS).

Moreover, recently the Ministry of Agriculture announced the dis- mantling of all “inefficient State companies” as well as support for creating 2,600 new small urban and suburban farms, and the distribution of the use rights (in usufruct) to the majority of estimated 3 million hectares of unused State lands.

Under these regulations, decisions on resource use and strategies for food production and commercialization will be made at the municipal level, while the central government and state companies will support farmers by distributing necessary inputs and services.3 Through the mid-1990s some 78,000 farms were given in usufruct to individuals and legal entities. More than 100,000 farms have now been distributed, cover- ing more than 1 million hectares in total. These new farmers are associated with the CCS following the campesino production model. The government is busy figuring out how to accelerate the processing of an unprecedented number of land requests.

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