Cuba to let farmers buy equipment on credit

| Agriculture, Government |

HAVANA — Communist Cuba has begun offering private farmers
equipment and other resources on credit along with more land, as
President Raul Castro seeks to reform agriculture by loosening the
state’s grip.

Just days after a government decree authorizing
land grants to farmers, they are being called to meetings and asked
what machinery and other resources they need to make the best use of it.

"They
told us to present our requests immediately for what we need and that
Venezuela, Iran and other countries had given credit to cover the
resources," the treasurer of a private co-operative said by telephone
after attending a meeting this week.

Iran recently agreed to increase trade credits to Cuba from 200
million euros to 500 million euros, and Venezuela already finances
dozens of factory and farm projects.

Hundreds of farmers were
told at the meeting in central Cuba called by the Association of Small
Farmers not to hold back on their requests.

"We can ask for
whatever we need. Machinery, spare parts, irrigation systems, wind
mills, land clearing kits, you name it," the co-operative member said.

Decision-making
in the sector was recently decentralized, and redundant state-run
companies merged. The state, which purchases 70 per cent to 80 per cent
of farm output, has doubled or even tripled the prices it pays.

The remaining 20 per cent to 30 per cent of production is sold on the open market.

Cuba’s
250,000 family farmers and 1,000 private co-operatives produce as much
as state farms do on just 25 per cent as much land.

© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2008