Helping Cuban Reforms through Agricultural Trade

Dr. Timothy Ashby (COHA) writes about the latest changes in the Cuban economic overhaul, such as the legalization of buying and selling residential real property and the creation of small privately owned businesses, and of the U.S. possible role in Cuba’s agricultural trade. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:

The Cuban government is encouraging the creation of small businesses and private farming. More than 180,000 “self-employment” licenses have been issued since 2010, and the government has turned over four million acres of land to 143,000 private farmers since 2008. Today there are over 350,000 small private farmers in Cuba, producing 57 percent of the food consumed on the island and 60 percent of agricultural exports on just 24 percent of the land. The Cuban state owns more than 70 percent of the arable land on the island, of which some 50 percent lies fallow. Yet even this situation is changing as economic reforms accelerate. Last month, Cuban authorities announced that the island’s private farmers would be eligible to receive land grants extending to 67 hectares (170 acres), up from the current maximum of thirteen hectares (33 acres).

Cuba’s private farmers are an entrepreneurial class with growing disposable income. Cuba buys imported foreign goods, including new automobiles (now also legal), and are eager to sell its agricultural products to the United States. Sadly, Cuban agricultural products are still banned from import into the USA. Cuban private farmers and businessmen think this is ironic considering that the U.S. has exported nearly USD four billion worth of food and agricultural products to Cuba since 2001.

[. . .] The U.S. government could concretely help the development of Cuba’s private sector – at no cost to the U.S. taxpayer – by introducing legislation that would allow preferential market access for Cuban agricultural products before the official end of the trade embargo against Havana. This most likely would require that the U.S. implement preferential (including protected) trade access for the island’s products, which are of agricultural origin and would not compete with products traditionally grown in the U.S.

The U.S. has a history of providing development assistance and preferential trade access to developing countries, particularly to its Latin American and Caribbean neighbors. Several existing programs offer special access to the U.S. market for certain agricultural and manufactured goods from developing countries. Specifically, the U.S. has developed a Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), in addition to several regional preferential trade programs, such as the Caribbean Basin Initiative, the Andean Trade Preference program and the African Growth and Opportunity program.

For full article, see http://www.coha.org/helping-cuban-reforms-through-agricultural-trade/

Photo from http://www.abc.net.au/rural/content/2009/s2765807.htm

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