Cuba - Agriculture
The state owns about three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of arable land, and 750,000 hectares (1.8 million) of permanent crops. About 14.5% of the economically active population was engaged in the agricultural sector in 1999. An agrarian reform law of June 1959 made the government proprietor of all land in Cuba, created the National Institute of Agrarian Reform (INRA) as administrator, and set a general limit of 30 caballerías (400 hectares/990 acres) of farmland to be held by any one owner. A second agrarian reform, of October 1963, expropriated medium-size private holdings; there remained about 170,000 small private farms, with average holdings of over 16 hectares (40 acres). By 1985 there were 1,378 farm cooperatives. Almost a third of cultivated land is irrigated.
Sugarcane, Cuba's most vital crop and its largest export, is grown throughout the island, but mainly in the eastern half. The government regulates sugar production and prices. Sugar output reached 7.6 million tons in 1970, but that fell short of the 10 million tons projected. Subsequent targets were lowered, and the output was 7.9 million tons in 1979, 6.7 million in 1980 (when crop disease reduced production), eight million in 1985, and 3.5 million in 1999. Cuba has pioneered the introduction of mechanical cane harvesters, and by 1998 there were 7,400 harvester-threshers (up from 5,717 in the early 1980s). Cuba and Russia signed several finance and investment accords in 1992 and 1993 whereby Russia will supply fuel, spare parts, fertilizer, and herbicide in exchange for Cuba's sugar harvest, with Russia annually importing a minimum of two million tons of Cuban sugar. The sugar industry also has diversified into exporting molasses, ethyl alcohol, rum and liquor, bagasse chipboard, torula yeast, dextran, and furfural. Tobacco, the second most important crop, is grown on small farms requiring intensive cultivation. In the late 1970s, the average annual production was about 35,000 tons, but crop disease in 1979 resulted in a drop in production to 8,200 tons in 1980; production was 37,000 tons in 1999. Other crops in 1999 included (in tons) oranges, 400,000; lemons and limes, 21,000; grapefruit, 300,000; rice, 420,000; plantains, 275,000; bananas, 115,000; potatoes, 330,000; sweet potatoes, 150,000; and coffee, 21,000. Other Cuban products with export potential include: mangoes, pineapples, ginger, papayas, and seeds.