The Paradox of Cuban Agriculture
When Cuba faced the shock of lost trade relations with the Soviet
Bloc in the early 1990s, food production initially collapsed due to the
loss of imported fertilizers, pesticides, tractors, parts, and petroleum.
The situation was so bad that Cuba posted the worst growth in per
capita food production in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.
But the island rapidly re-oriented its agriculture to depend less on
imported synthetic chemical inputs, and became a world-class case
of ecological agriculture.1 This was such a successful turnaround that
Cuba rebounded to show the best food production performance in
Latin America and the Caribbean over the following period, a remark-
able annual growth rate of 4.2 percent per capita from 1996 through
2005, a period in which the regional average was 0 percent.
Much of the production rebound was due to the adoption since the
early 1990s of a range of agrarian decentralization policies that encouraged
forms of production, both individual as well as cooperative—Basic Units
of Cooperative Production (UBPC) and Credit and Service Cooperatives
Moreover, recently the Ministry of Agriculture announced the dis-
mantling of all “inefficient State companies” as well as support for creating
2,600 new small urban and suburban farms, and the distribution of the
use rights (in usufruct) to the majority of estimated 3 million hectares of
unused State lands.
Under these regulations, decisions on resource use
and strategies for food production and commercialization will be made at
the municipal level, while the central government and state companies will
support farmers by distributing necessary inputs and services.3 Through
the mid-1990s some 78,000 farms were given in usufruct to individuals and
legal entities. More than 100,000 farms have now been distributed, cover-
ing more than 1 million hectares in total. These new farmers are associated
with the CCS following the campesino production model. The government
is busy figuring out how to accelerate the processing of an unprecedented
number of land requests.