Cuba says "distortions" hamper efforts to boost farm output

Havana, Jun 3 (EFE).- The Cuban government is taking steps to rectify "distortions" that are hampering efforts to increase production in the agricultural sector, the government-run media reported Monday.

"The measures that for decades have been put into practice in managing the land have not led to the necessary increase in production," Vice President Marino Murillo said at last Friday's Cabinet meeting.

"Rectifying the distortions that have affected economic results is needed" in the fields and "it is urged that equal conditions be placed on all producers, that the productive forces be freed up and ... efficiency be fostered," said Murillo, the coordinator of the economic reform plan pushed by President Raul Castro.

One of the main problems facing the agricultural sector is that resources and equipment are preferentially allocated to the state-run sector "while the rest (including cooperatives and small agricultural producers) are not always assured (of resources) either on time or in quantity," Communist Party daily Granma said.

To alleviate that situation, the Cuban government has decided to create a type of unsubsidized market for resources and equipment destined for the agricultural sector, although implementing measures to avoid a possible increase in food prices affects the population.

Havana is anxious to increase farm output, as Cuba currently depends on imports for 80 percent of its food supply, at an annual cost of around $1.5 billion.

Among his reforms to update the socialist economic model, Raul Castro in 2008 pushed a plan to turn over unused arable land to individuals and cooperatives, but the measure is still facing difficulties such as the reluctance of authorities to declare those lands idle and hand them over to individuals willing to farm them.