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Cuba Agriculture and Fishing Overview
Agriculture and fishing
The soil is fertile and the climate favorable to agriculture, but the industry is hampered by a lack of capital and difficulties in distributing the harvests. The reforms of recent years have not led to any significant improvement.
Sugarcane was the most important crop for a long time and accounted for most of Cuban exports, but the sugar industry was hit hard by the economic crisis that followed the collapse of Eastern Communism around 1990. The Soviet market for Cuban sugar fell away while there was a shortage of fuel and spare parts. The situation was made worse by recurring droughts and devastating hurricanes.
In the late 1990s, a campaign was launched to try to revitalize the sugar industry. The least efficient sugar mills were closed, but despite the fact that production was concentrated to better soils, the yield did not increase. At the same time, the world market price of sugar was low, which led to a lack of capital and large areas were laid down. In 2011, sugar accounted for only 6.5 percent of exports of goods, compared with 70 per cent in 1990. In the same year, the sugar industry was reorganized. The ministry responsible for sugar production was abolished and the board transferred to semi-autonomous companies with the right to sign contracts with foreign investors. Since then, production has increased but not in line with producers' hopes.
The better for the tobacco industry. Cuban tobacco is of high quality and constitutes raw material for the famous Havana cigars. With the help of capital from French and Spanish importers, production has been stimulated and demand in the world market has increased.
In addition to sugar and tobacco, citrus fruits have become important export products. In addition, coffee, cotton, corn, rice, potatoes, vegetables, peanuts and bananas are grown.
Nationalization and reforms
After Castro's takeover of power in 1959, all major farms were nationalized, but a large part of them were later divided into smaller cooperatives. Family farming was allowed in some cases but only on small lots.
Large investments in irrigation and artificial fertilizers increased the return on state agriculture, but in the long run they became ineffective. During the crisis of the 1990s, several reforms were introduced to increase agricultural production. Some of the state farms were dissolved and the farmers instead formed smaller cooperatives where they gained greater influence over production. The farmers were also given the right to sell their products in markets.
The reforms led to an increase in agricultural production, but not enough to meet Cuban food needs.
When Raśl Castro took over as the country's leader in 2008, new reforms were initiated. Private farmers were now given the right to use state land that was in decline (about half of all arable land was then estimated to be underutilized). For the first time, the farmers also had the opportunity to choose for themselves what they would grow. In return, some of the harvest would go back to the state.
The idea of the reforms was to stimulate food production. However, the land that the farmers had to take over was overgrown and difficult to cultivate after lying unused for years. Lack of seed and investment funds contributed to the problems, and when the crops were to be distributed, bottlenecks appeared in the supply chain.
Since 2015, farmers have been offered new opportunities to take out loans, but production has remained uneven. Cuba remains dependent on a large food import to meet the country's needs.
Forestry and fishing
The investment in sugarcane cultivation meant that large parts of the forest in Cuba were cleared. Nowadays, projects are under way to replant forest and thus counteract the tendency to soil degradation. A little over a quarter of Cuba is covered by forests today. Forestry is small-scale. In the forests, finer woods such as cedar and mahogany grow, but most of the woods that are felled are simpler woods used as fuel.
Fishing takes place at sea. There are also fish farms. Excessive fishing has led to fishing in some areas. The fishing industry produces both for domestic consumption and for export. Especially seafood is in demand abroad. Even in the country, seafood is an important source of protein. (As a tourist, for example, it's easier to get a lobster than a piece of beef.)
FACTS - AGRICULTURE
Agriculture's share of GDP
3.8 percent (2017)
Percentage of land used for agriculture
59.9 percent (2016)
Amnesty for Pope's visit
Nearly 3,000 prisoners are released in an amnesty for the Pope's visit to Cuba in the coming years. Among those released are people convicted of political crimes.
Banking reform facilitates small business owners
A bank reform is being implemented that will allow the Cubans to open bank accounts and take out bank loans. This makes it easier for small business owners to get together start-up capital. In the past, they have had to rely on money that relatives abroad sent home.
New law gives Cubans the right to buy and sell housing
The new Property Act is adopted, which is described by political analysts in the West as the biggest step to date towards a market economy. For the first time in over fifty years, Cubans now have the right to buy and sell their homes, and thus - at least in theory - can choose for themselves where to live and when to move. The change is welcomed by many Cubans but also creates some concern as the lack of housing has caused many Cubans to share homes with relatives or even another family. In many cases, ownership only applies to a few of those who live in the home and thus the others risk being left without a home if the home is sold. However, the person or persons who own the property may not sell the property without permission from other adults who have lived there for more than five years.
Demands on democracy
Former political prisoners and other Cuban dissidents come up with a proposal on how a transition to democracy could be implemented. Over 40 people have signed the document, which has been called the People's Way. It requires a broad national dialogue that leads to free elections and a new constitution. A national commission is proposed with participants from government, opposition and civil society. Requirements are placed on freedom of the press, opinion and association and the right for Cubans to travel freely. The government's gradual liberalization of the economy must be accompanied by political reforms, the signatories explain.
Agreement with China
China's Vice President Xi Jinping visits Havana. Another number of agreements are signed that provide Cuba with Chinese technology and Chinese capital. In return, China gets involved in Cuba's energy sector.
The Communist Party holds congress
The Communist Party holds its first congress in fourteen years. At the
congress, over 300 reforms are adopted. The congress decides, among other
things, to impose a time limit for political office over two terms of office.
This means that Raśl Castro must retire by 2018. Despite the talk of
rejuvenation, members choose to appoint Raśl Castro, 79, as a new party chairman
after Fidel formally resigns at the congress.
The American is sentenced to prison
The American Alan Gross who was arrested in December 2009 is sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Released prisoners are released
The last of the 52 released prisoners (see July 2012) are released without any requirement to leave the country.