Cuba eyes more foreign investment in agriculture
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Dec 20 (Reuters) – Cuba may accept more foreign investment in
agriculture to try to reduce food imports and revive state lands that
have fallen into disuse, an official at the Foreign Investment and
Cooperation Ministry told Reuters on Thursday.
"We are analyzing how to increase investment in the sector with the goal
of substituting imports," said Anaiza Rodriguez, director of the
Department of Investment Project Evaluation and Management.
Acting Cuban President Raul Castro said in July the state of the
state-dominated sector was unacceptable. Up to 50 percent of arable land
lays fallow even as the cash-strapped country imports some $2 billion in
food products a year.
Raul Castro, who temporarily took over for his ailing older brother
Fidel Castro 16 months ago, said in July that agriculture should be
restructured and new concepts applied but he did not elaborate.
Raul Castro then called for more foreign investment in the country.
Rodriguez said Cuba was involved in a total of 233 joint ventures.
"This is a different moment," Rodriguez said when asked if policy was
changing and agriculture would become more investor friendly.
"Food is our biggest import and we have to produce it here," she said,
pointing to Raul Castro's July speech.
Cuba imports hundreds of thousands of tons of rice, soy products, wheat,
corn and other bulk foods annually, around 25 percent from the United
States under a 2000 amendment to the trade embargo that allows
agricultural sales for cash.
Rodriguez said the ministry was looking at proposals from Argentina,
Venezuela and other Latin American as well as European countries to grow
soy and other grains and cereals in Cuba, but would not say when
agreements might be signed. (Editing by Howard Goller)