Party group seeks end of state food monopoly

The head of a group affiliated with the Communist Party is advocating an end to the state food distribution monopoly, according to official daily Juventud Rebelde.

The Acopio state monopoly remains an “unresolved topic,” Orlando Lugo Fonte, president of the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP), told the Communist Youth newspaper. “If in Cuba there is private and diversified production, you can’t have monopolized distribution. We have to look for many ways of buying and selling. If you ask me, it must be direct.”

Farmers must sell their entire quota — the bulk of their production — to Acopio. Farmers can sell their excess crops directly at roadside stands and on state markets; selling to private middlemen is not allowed, but the practice is widespread. Lugo is advocating farmers’ rights to sell more of their production directly to end users.

Lugo, left, is reopening the debate of agriculture reform


“If a cooperative wants to sell products and wants a sales point, let them have it,” Lugo said. “If a hotel wants to buy a product from a cooperative, why can’t it do so? Why do they have to do it forcedly through a company?”

Lugo has been a persistent critic of the dysfunctional state distribution monopoly, but this is the first time the association is advocating an end to the monopoly. Lugo’s statements and his association’s apparent discontent with the current shape of reforms are reopening the debate over how to stimulate food production in Cuba, just three weeks after the Communist Party Congress approved a large reform package that only talked in broad terms about “transforming” food distribution. 

Privately owned small farms and larger-size, member-owned cooperatives account for the bulk of Cuba’s agricultural production. However, the Acopio monopoly, which has been fraught by inefficiencies in handling farmers’ quota products, has remained untouched by the reform project. Despite a two-year old massive state land distribution program benefiting private farmers, food production has not considerably improved.

ANAP represents small private farmers and member-owned cooperatives.

In the interview with Juventud Rebelde, Lugo also said that the 10-year leases the state grants to private farmers under a two-year old program should be permanent and inheritable.

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