Cuba’s Free Market Experiment Faltering

The Cuban government’s recent experiment with free market agriculture has proven to be a major bust. The failure of Cuba’s free market reform may set back economic and political liberalization efforts by years, if not decades, some analysts worry.

Since he took power in 2007, Raul Castro has made agricultural reform a major priority. State controlled production has typically yielded meager harvests and food shortages at state run farms and markets were common throughout the Fidel regime. Raul Castro’s first presidential speech emphasized the need for farm reform to boost production and reduce food insecurity.

Last year, the Cuban government unveiled sweeping changes to the nation’s agricultural policy. While the steps may have been small, the legalization of independent and privately run small agricultural operations signaled a major transformation in the Communist country, one that may hoped would signal a new era of political and economic freedom.

The free market reforms, however, appear to be a major failure. Waste, inefficiency, technological limitations, and severe lack of transportation infrastructure appears to have limited the potential impact of farm liberalization. According to recent studies, food supplies have dropped this year while prices have increased 20 percent and food imports have increased from $1.4 billion in 2006 to $1.7 billion today.

Other studies suggest that a lack of trust in farm reforms is stifling production. Many farmers are worried that the government might change its mind, confiscating whatever they have built during the relaxation of government control.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer