Cubans getting farmland from gov’t show little interest in growing sugar cane

Growing sugar cane is arousing little interest among the Cubans who are taking advantage of the plan to turn over unused agricultural land to them for cultivation, official media reported Monday.

Of the total area turned over to private individuals to farm up through November 2012, just 3.6 percent ended up in the hands of people interested in growing sugar cane, and that trend is being maintained, Communist Party daily Granma said.

In recent months, just 40 requests for land on which to grow sugar cane have been received and only 9 tracts of 110 hectares (about 275 acres) each, equivalent to 6.4 percent of the total idle land handed out, have been distributed.

Difficulties in obtaining loans, the distance of those tracts from sugar mills and the lack of equipment and machinery to use in growing sugar cane are the main obstacles mitigating against the desire by potential farmers to get into the sugar production business.

Cuba has a total of 6.5 million hectares (16.25 million acres) of arable land, of which just 32 percent is under cultivation, according to Agriculture Ministry figures.

In Cuba, 70.5 percent of the agricultural land is in the hands of the cooperative and peasant sector, whether as owners or people who have contracted to work the farmland.

Since the Cuban government approved the idea of handing over idle lands to people willing to work them in 2008, a move made within the framework of reforms to update the socialist model, more than 1.54 million hectares (3.85 million acres) of state-owned land have been placed in the hands of 172,000 individuals.

The 2012-2013 sugar harvest, which concluded in mid-June, fell 11 percent short of the official output target, though it was up 8 percent compared with the previous season.

Considered in the past to be the country’s economic engine, after a substantial decline that begin in the 1990s, the sugar industry touched bottom with the 2009-2010 harvest, with production of just 1.1 million tons, the worst in 105 yea

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