HAVANA – Cuba’s process of distributing farm land to individuals and cooperatives, begun in 2008 with an eye toward rejuvenating the island’s food production, is suffering from delays and limitations for both bureaucratic and practical reasons, an official said Thursday.
The head of the National Land Control Center, Pedro Olivera, said at a press conference in Havana that the process has been “hindered and limited” by problems such as delays in the approval of requests for land.
He also said that there are state-run entities that are not declaring the full amount of excess and idle land under their administration.
Another difficulty is the “slowness and delay” in the exploitation of the distributed lands due to a lack of “control and follow-up,” the scarcity of consumables with which to work the land and the lack of experience and training among the new farmers, many of whom have little or no experience in agriculture.
When the government of President Raul Castro decreed the land distributions to jumpstart agriculture in 2008, about 51 percent of the island’s total arable land was idle or being inefficiently worked.
Olivera said that current calculations are that Cuba has more than 2 million hectares (nearly 5 million acres) “associated” with this process and more than 1.4 million hectares have already been handed out.
To date, authorities have received more than 194,000 requests for land, of which about 92 percent have been approved and the rest are under review.
There are estimated to be about 14,000 cases where the right to work land has been later withdrawn.
Just over 26 percent of the new Cuban farmers are people under 25 with little work experience and more than 70 percent of the total have no experience in agriculture, Olivera said.
He added that the authorities are working to implement new laws that allow an increase the amount of land the regime can distribute and the amount of time for which it can assign a plot of land to a farmer. Currently, plots are limited to 13 hectares and can be worked for 10 years by individuals.
Another aspect of the situation that is being considered is giving authorization so that land recipients can build houses on the plots so that “continuity and sustainability” can be provided for the measure.
In Cuba, the rejuvenation of agriculture to increase food production is considered to be a matter of “national security.”
The country spends more than $1.5 billion per year importing 80 percent of the food its citizens consume. EFE.