Cuba, yielding to public complaints, said on Friday it would allow farmers to sell more food directly to Havana's often sparse produce markets, and also replaced the country's agriculture minister.
Farmers have long said the state failed to adequately move their produce to market, while consumers have complained food is often scarce and of poor quality.
State-run television announced during its nightly newscast that 56 of the capital's 400 markets were already being supplied directly by farmers, with plans to include 88 others in the "new food sales strategy" by July.
"We are preparing the sales process of the producers, including individual farmers who can now come to our markets with their products fresh from the earth, without any bureaucracy," said Luis Grillo, director of Havana's produce markets said.
The announcement appeared to be an admission that a much- touted plan introduced 18 months ago to improve state distribution of produce, had failed.
Under the plan, communist authorities shifted state distribution from the Agriculture Ministry to the Interior Trade Ministry in a move to solve bottlenecks. The experiment came under fire by farmers, consumers and the media.
Private cooperatives and farmers produce 70 percent of the food in the country on 41 percent of the land, with the rest owned and worked by the state.
Cuba's economy is more than 90 percent controlled by the state, which has monopolized the sale of farm inputs such as fertilizer and the sale of produce.
Agriculture Minister Ulises Rosales del Toro, a general who for many years was sugar minister before moving to agriculture in 2007, was replaced by the ministry's first vice minister, Gustavo Rodriguez.
The brief government communique said Rosales, who is also a vice president of the Council of Ministers, would now have more time to dedicate "to the strategic task of steadily increasing agricultural production."
President Raul Castro, who took over from his ailing brother Fidel in 2008, has gradually allowed farmers in the provinces to sell a portion of their produce directly to consumers as part of efforts to increase production, but had balked at doing the same in Havana with its 2.2 million consumers and hundreds of state-run markets.
ReutersLast Mod: 12 Haziran 2010, 13:32