8 Dec 2012. Damien Cave. Cuba’s Free-Market Farm Experiment Yields a Meager Crop. Feeding the People in Cuba: Last year, President Raúl Castro legalized small agricultural businesses as part of an effort to revive the economy. New York Times.
President Raúl Castro has made agriculture priority No. 1 in his attempt to remake the country. Yet at this point, by most measures, the project has failed.
Mainly because of poor transportation. Trucks are in short supply, and the aging ones that exist often break down. But also because of:
- Poor management
- Theft and other problems
The result: many Cubans are actually seeing less food at private markets. This is despite an increase in the number of farmers and production gains for certain items. A recent study from the University of Havana showed that market prices jumped by nearly 20% in 2011 alone. And food imports increased to an estimated $1.7 billion last year, up from $1.4 billion in 2006.
In 2009, hundreds of tons of tomatoes, part of a bumper crop that year, rotted because of a lack of transportation by the government agency charged with bringing food to processing centers. “It’s worse when it rains,” said Javier González, 27, a farmer in Artemisa Province who described often seeing crops wilt and rot because they were not picked up.