Cuba rolls out master plan for food production and distribution

HAVANA,  (Reuters) – Cuba rolled out a master plan this week to reform food production and sales that definitively ends the state’s monopoly on distribution and replaces many rules that hamper farmers and consumers.

A decree, which puts the management of most food distribution in non-state hands, will be applied on an experimental basis in Havana and the adjoining provinces of Artemisa and Mayabeque before going nationwide beginning in 2015. With the country importing around 60 percent of its food and private farmers outperforming state farms on a fraction of the land, authorities are gradually deregulating the sector and leasing fallow land to would-be farmers.

It is slow going, with farm output up just a few percentage points since President Raul Castro, who replaced his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, began agricultural reforms as part of a broader effort to “modernize” the Soviet-style economy.

Many aspects of the new law bring together reforms already in place or activities that have spontaneously developed and been tolerated by authorities even if technically illegal, including the renting and selling of trucks to farmers and allowing them to contract private hauling of crops instead of relying on the state.

The decree allows farmers, cooperatives and state farms to sell produce in any quantity and to anyone they please after meeting state contracts, instead of being mired in regulations as to how much they can sell, to whom and how.

Large consumers, including state entities and private eateries, can purchase produce wholesale from private farms and cooperatives, instead of just the state.

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