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Latino Daily News

Tuesday September 11, 2012

Cuba Plans to Rescue Agricultural Cooperatives

The Cuban government has approved a package of measures to rescue the system of autonomously managed farming cooperatives known as UBPCs, which cultivate 28 percent of the nation’s arable land.

Communist Party daily Granma said Tuesday that the plan will take effect immediately and seeks to eliminate the subjection to state companies under which these cooperatives have been laboring, by providing them with greater autonomy and new sources of financing.

The newspaper noted that these cooperatives are not state companies and though they were “well conceived” back in 1994, their autonomy has been “constricted to almost unsustainable levels.”

UBPCs were founded with more than half the country’s arable land going to workers rent-free, but they had to comply with high production quotas to supply the state with food that would go to hospitals, schools and other institutions.

Granma recalled Tuesday that what were originally state farms were made into UBPC farming cooperatives in order to revitalize the agricultural system through autonomy of management, though they were never able to “get organized organically” due to their domination by state companies.

In that sense, the daily said it was often considered normal for state companies to impose production plans, supervisors and even business decisions on the UBPCs.

Of the 2,519 cooperatives of this kind in country in 1994, some 1,989 remain in 2012.

UBPCs take up more than 1.7 million hectares (4.2 million acres) and closed the year 2010 with 15 percent of the cooperatives in the red.

It is estimated that 57 percent of the UBPCs have troubles that can be “put right,” while 16 percent are in such critical condition they have little hope of recovery.

In its financial provisions, the new plan aims to liquidate the debt of these cooperatives and boost their capitalization by different means, though it does specify that starting in 2013 they will receive no funding from the government budget.

In Cuba, the revival of agriculture and increased production are considered a matter of “national security,” because the country spends more than $1.5 billion a year to import 80 percent of the food it consumes.