Wow. What a surprise! What a shock! The NYT reports that the economic “reforms” decreed by His Majesty Raul have actually made things worse. What is not shocking at all is the fact that the Times continues to promote the idea that King Raul really wants to “remake” his slave plantation and that its authors continue to cite the usual gang of Cuba “experts” in order to provide the proper perspective on facts and on what ordinary Cubans on the island are saying.
But at least the author of this article is forced to admit that the reforms have been a dismal failure. We could have told them that even before the reforms went into effect. But, of course, we’re not real “experts.”
Cuba’s Free-Market Farm Experiment Yields a Meager Crop
by Damien Cave, New York Times
HAVANA — Cuba’s liveliest experiment with capitalism unfolds every night in a dirt lot on the edge of the capital, where Truman-era trucks lugging fresh produce meet up with hundreds of buyers on creaking bicycle carts clutching wads of cash.
“This place, it feeds all of Havana,” said Misael Toledo, 37, who owns three small food stores in the city. “Before, you could only buy or sell in the markets of Fidel.”
The agriculture exchange, which sprang up last year after the Cuban government legalized a broader range of small businesses, is a vivid sign of both how much the country has changed, and of all the political and practical limitations that continue to hold it back.
President Raúl Castro has made agriculture priority No. 1 in his attempt to remake the country. He used his first major presidential address in 2007 to zero in on farming, describing weeds conquering fallow fields and the need to ensure that “anyone who wants can drink a glass of milk.”
No other industry has seen as much liberalization, with a steady rollout of incentives for farmers. And Mr. Castro has been explicit about his reasoning: increasing efficiency and food production to replace imports that cost Cuba hundreds of millions of dollars a year is a matter “of national security.”
Yet at this point, by most measures, the project has failed. Because of waste, poor management, policy constraints, transportation limits, theft and other problems, overall efficiency has dropped: many Cubans are actually seeing less food at private markets. That is the case despite an increase in the number of farmers and production gains for certain items. A recent study from the University of Havana showed that market prices jumped by nearly 20 percent in 2011 alone. And food imports increased to an estimated $1.7 billion last year, up from $1.4 billion in 2006.
“It’s the first instance of Cuba’s leader not being able to get done what he said he would,” said Jorge I. Domínguez, vice provost for international affairs at Harvard, who left Cuba as a boy. “The published statistical results are really very discouraging.”
A major cause: poor transportation, as trucks are in short supply, and the aging ones that exist often break down.
In 2009, hundreds of tons of tomatoes, part of a bumper crop that year, rotted because of a lack of transportation by the government agency charged with bringing food to processing centers.
“It’s worse when it rains,” said Javier González, 27, a farmer in Artemisa Province who described often seeing crops wilt and rot because they were not picked up.
Behind him were the 33 fertile, rent-free acres he had been granted as part of a program Mr. Castro introduced in 2008 to encourage rural residents to work the land. After clearing it himself and planting a variety of crops, Mr. Gonzalez said, he was doing relatively well and earned more last year than his father, who is a doctor, did.
Continue reading HERE, especially if you hanker for more commentary from the usual gang of Cuba “experts”… and if you just love to see photographic evidence of how far down into hell the island formerly known as Cuba has sunk.