Marc Frank | Reuters
Communist Cuba has partially lifted a ban on farmers buying supplies in the latest sign its new President Raul Castro is looking to individual initiative to stimulate food production.
Agricultural sources told Reuters on Monday that Cuba plans to open stores for farmers to buy tools, herbicides, boots and other supplies for the first time after decades of state control.
“For the first time all supplies are not being assigned by the central government. It’s a market crack in the monopoly and centralization that it is sure to spread,” a local agriculture specialist said, asking not to be named.
“It doesn’t seem like much, but this is a very important first step,” he said.
Since the state took over shops in the 1960s, farmers have not been able to walk into an agricultural supplies store and buy some of the goods they needed.
State-run hard currency companies recently sent buyers abroad to purchase tools, hand held machinery and supplies such as fencing, fertilizer and seed, presumably to sell in their outlets across the country, a local business source said.
Cuba began crediting dairy farmers $0.02 per liter (two pints) of milk this year, which they can now use to purchase the supplies.
“They are readying a hard currency store in the city which opens next month,” said a dairy farmer by telephone from central Camaguey province.
“We’ll be able to purchase hand-held tools, herbicides, boots, fencing and things like that,” he said. (Reporting by Marc Frank, Editing by Anthony Boadle and Sandra Maler)