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  HOME | Cuba

Cuban Government Acknowledges Food Shortages

HAVANA – State-run food markets in the Cuban capital received only 60 percent of expected deliveries in January and just 64 percent in February, Communist Party daily Granma said Wednesday, adding that the agricultural reforms implemented by President Raul Castro have not yet yielded results.

Granma reported that a scarcity of pesticides and fuel resulted in “costly damages” and pointed to supply and marketing problems, but also noted that the small-scale producers at the center of a plan to boost farm output say the changes in the sector “are not yet as beneficial as they had hoped.”

“At times, excessive obstacles and prohibitions are breeding grounds for crime and bribery,” according to the newspaper, which cited excessive bureaucracy, lack of coordination and rigidity in food production and distribution.

“Almost all the producers are making the same proposal: that they be able to access Havana markets without going through any intermediate steps.”

Granma went on to say that supply shortages are “difficult to understand” given the strategic measures adopted by the government of Gen. Castro, who since formally succeeding ailing older brother Fidel two years ago said food production is a matter of “national security.”

“Many ... were hoping for a different scenario in January and February since the higher prices help producers, along with other factors such as the exploitation of idle land that had been given in usufruct, the creation of a large number of farms and the more rational and disciplined use of technical forces and means,” the newspaper said.

Among the causes of the food shortages, Granma mentioned that the smallholders and cooperatives that produce 70 percent of the food sold to state-run markets “did not receive fertilizers and chemical products to protect their crops in the final quarter of 2009.

Cuba’s current crisis, the biggest since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a resulting loss of subsidies from Moscow, has forced the government to reduce imports by a third, especially food imports, which made up 80 percent of what reached the dinner tables of Cuba’s 11 million people.

Authorities blame the 48-year-old U.S. economic embargo, hurricanes that battered the island two years ago and the global financial crisis, among other factors, while opponents of the communist government say the problem is chronic inefficiency.

“The economic measures, introduced in haphazard fashion and riddled with contradictions, within a context that makes it impossible for them to be effective, have been more than inefficient,” dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a former political prisoner, said.

“The problems continue to increase and the crisis doesn’t just have social overtones; there is growing disgust among people over the severe worsening of their standard of living,” Espinosa says. EFE

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