14ymedio, Havana, April 14, 2021 – Cuban authorities will allow retail sales of beef once the state’s orders have been filled and the livestock supply is stable, a measure similar to one governing milk and its byproducts, whose retail sale is conditional on certain indicators being met.
Both changes are part of a package of sixty-three measures announced on Tuesday which are intended to boost food production, though some independent economists think they will be insufficient unless they are accompanied by more fundamental reforms.
Deputy Prime Minister Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca proposed some of these measures, including a reduction in electrical rates for all agricultural activities. The new rates will remain in effect regardless of fluctuations in the price of oil or water. Costs for both will be covered in the state budget at a figure estimated to be between 240 and 400 million pesos.
Changes will be made in procurement procedures to guarantee that contracts with individual producers regarding planting, production and sales are fulfilled. Prices for raw materials and some products, local development projects, certain financial issues and taxes are other measures to be explained in greater detail, presumably on Wednesday, during the next broadcast of the State TV Roundtable program.
Tapia Fonseca claimed the changes “were not drafted in an office” and, according to official press reports, “the broadest possible range of opinions” was taken into account in their preparation. However, input from independent farmers’ associations has never been taken into account, either in meetings with authorities or in proposals they have made through open letters or written statements.
Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel himself, who was present at the meeting in which the new measures to increase food production were announced, said the package of reforms is a result of a “democratic, participative and inclusive exercise which took into account the opinions of both state and non-state producers as well as those of experts, academics, research centers, agricultural company directors and many other voices in the country.”
“We all have to do something for the country at this time. We all have to dedicate ourselves to defending the Revolution,” the president added.
Elias Amor, a Madrid-based Cuban economist, argues on his blog Cubaeconomia that these measures have come about “because of the terrible design of the currency unification process. “They have closed one hole but opened a much bigger one in the form of uncontrolled public debt.” [Related article here.]
The expert believes the changes are a response to protests from producers but sees them as little more than “populist patches” that will solve nothing.
“Anyone who works the earth, increasing its value and improving it, wants it to be his, to be able to use it as he freely chooses, in whatever way he deems appropriate, without any communist oversight… The path of freedom begins with property rights to land. From there, progress can then be made towards efficiency and food security, and even the export of surpluses, as in Vietnam,” he argues.
Another economist, Pedro Monreal, is more optimistic though he is waiting to see the details. He believes it is too early to come to any conclusions because this may only be the beginning of a process, with more significant changes to come.
“It is difficult to evaluate these new measures — they represent an experimental approach, which is not the same as an experiment — without a broader discussion of economics and politics. But the key aspects to look at it will be supply and price stability,” he said on his Twitter account.
In Monreal’s opinion, the eventual success of these measures could encourage adoption of other changes that would impact production, such as the direct distribution schemes of Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), “which would benefit small and medium sized businesses.”
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