The Miami Herald
November 11, 1998
Report paints sad state of Cuban crops
Assessment made by 2 economists on island

             By FRANK DAVIES
             Herald Staff Writer

             WASHINGTON -- The woeful state of agriculture in Cuba, and the inability of
             the island nation to feed its people, was documented Tuesday by a new report that
             had few surprises except its source -- two economists still in Cuba.

             Using statistics from the Cuban government, the economists show the decline of
             production and the failure of the state-managed economy, especially since the end
             of Soviet subsidies in 1989. The Cuban government blames those problems on the
             U.S. embargo; the economists cite inefficiency as ``the endemic malaise of the

             The report, sent out of Cuba earlier this year, was written by hand -- complete
             with tables and charts -- by Manuel Sanchez Herrero and Arnaldo Ramos
             Lauzurique. The former agriculture economists are now ``self-employed'' and
             working with a group of dissidents.

             ``They prepared and sent this analysis at great personal risk,'' said Ernesto
             Betancourt, the former director of Radio Marti who reviewed the report for the
             Center for a Free Cuba.

             Along with Betancourt, two economists -- Edgardo Favaro, who works on
             Caribbean development for the World Bank, and former U.S. AID official
             Antonio Gayoso -- analyzed the report at a meeting Tuesday sponsored by the
             center on Capitol Hill.

             ``This is a bleak picture of Cuban agriculture, which is not surprising,'' said Favaro,
             who agreed that farm production on the island lags behind that of Haiti and other
             countries in the region.

             ``This collapse of the system should lead to some changes,'' Favaro said. ``The
             report shows the power of ideas -- bad ideas.''

             Favaro and Gayoso said the report highlights the destructive results of wild swings
             of policy -- putting most resources into sugar, then reversing course by
             diversifying, then experimenting with a very limited free market that has not
             boosted production.

             The Cuban economists' report shows that agricultural production grew a modest 6
             percent during the 1980s, then declined by at least 20 percent from 1990 to 1995.
             Cuba is ``incapable of generating the level of food production required for meeting
             the nutritional needs of the population,'' they found.

             Gayoso said the island would face famine except that some farmers are finding
             ways to sell some of their produce, once they meet state quotas, ``on the fence'' --
             to their neighbors. But limited free-market efforts have not provided enough
             incentive to boost production, he said.

             ``The half-hearted [economic] reforms haven't made much difference,'' agreed
             Betancourt. ``What you have is some nonprofit capitalism -- and that doesn't


                               Copyright © 1998 The Miami Herald