November 21, 2011 / 12:57 PM / 6 years ago

Cuba to let farmers sell directly to tourist sector

HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuban farmers can bypass the state and start selling products directly to businesses catering to tourists, state-run media said on Monday in announcing the latest market-oriented reform in the one of the world’s last communist countries.

Two farmers read newspapers beside bananas for sale on the outskirts of Havana, November 10, 2011. REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/Files

Communist Party newspaper Granma said the change, which takes effect on Dec. 1, was aimed at improving the variety and quality of food to the tourist sector, cutting transportation costs and reducing food losses that have plagued the country because of inefficiencies in getting harvested products to market.

The changes will allow the development of ways to “better take advantage of the potentialities ... at the local scale,” the newspaper said.

Tourism is one of Cuba’s most important sources of foreign exchange, with 2.7 million visitors expected to the Caribbean island this year, but poor food and service are frequently cited as reasons for tourists coming once and not returning.

The new regulations break from the past by reducing the state’s role as the middle-man in getting farm products to the tourist industry and by allowing buyers and sellers to set their own prices.

The change follows recent moves to allow Cubans to more freely buy and sell houses and cars, both of which were severely restricted after Fidel Castro took power in a 1959 revolution, and other reforms aimed at modernizing the island’s state-dominated Soviet-style economy.

President Raul Castro, who succeeded older brother Fidel Castro in 2008, is trying to revive Cuba’s moribund economy to ensure the survival of communism once the current generation of leaders is gone.

Reporting by Jeff Franks; Editing by Vicki Allen

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