Cuba calls agricultural leasing program a big success
Published April 18, 2011
Havana – A program launched in 2008 with the aim of expanding
agricultural production has seen 63 percent of Cuba's idle farmland and
pasture leased to more than 143,000 individuals and cooperatives,
exceeding "all expectations," a top official said Monday.
The director of the National Center for Control of the Land, Pedro
Olivera, told a press conference in Havana that already 922,000 hectares
(2.3 million acres) have been turned over.
Around 70 percent of those who have taken out leases had no previous
experience in agriculture, he said.
He went on to say that Cuba has 6.6 million hectares (16.5 million
acres) of agricultural land and in 2008 when President Raul Castro's
government launched the program it was estimated that there were more
than 1.8 million hectares (4.5 million acres) that were not in use.
Since then, Cuban authorities have received a total of 165,000 requests
for land parcels, of which 91 percent have been granted, and so far
about 143,000 Cubans have participated in the program and agreed to work
the land they have received.
Olivera said that the lands that remain to be distributed are those that
are less "accessible," but the government continues to receive requests
for land and there are more than 15,000 such petitions being processed.
The majority of the newly leased lands, 53 percent, have been dedicated
to livestock farming.
The agreement with new farmers is part of the "reorganization" of the
agricultural sector included in the government's reform plan, and Havana
is now proposing broadening the limits to turn over idle lands to
agricultural producers who show "outstanding results."
The leasing program is one of the main projects to revitalize
agriculture and increase food production in Cuba, which imports about 80
percent of the food its citizens consume at a cost of roughly $1.5
billion per year.
Last week, Cuban authorities announced that this year spending on
imported food will increase by 25 percent over what had been forecast
because of the rise in international food prices, a situation that means
$308 million in unanticipated expenditures.