Latin America & Caribbean

Cuba to allow farmers to sell directly to hotels

People buy food at a market in Havana on 12 November 2011
Image caption Under the new rules, farmers will also be able to take their products to market themselves

Farmers in Cuba will be able to sell their goods directly to tourist hotels and restaurants from 1 December 2011, the official Communist Party newspaper Granma has announced.

Under the new rules, Cubans will not have to go through government middlemen to sell agricultural produce.

For the first time in decades, farmers will also be allowed to take their products to market themselves.

The farm reform follows recent moves liberalising Cuban house and car sales.

The government said the new rules were meant to cut down on transportation costs and speed up food delivery to the tourism industry.

'Better supply'

According to Granma, the reform will allow farmers to "develop mechanisms to supply tourist entities and take better advantage of the potential of all forms of local means of production".

Tourism is a key source of revenue for Cuba, but visitors often complain about the poor quality of food.

The government is hoping the reform will help provide fresher and more varied products, boosting Cuba's attractiveness.

Under the current rules, a state-run body has a monopoly on the sale and distribution of agricultural products.

Prices and production volume are set at the start of each harvest.

Critics say the state-run system has led to high volumes of food rotting before it could be distributed.

The reform is part of a larger overhaul of Cuba's Soviet-style economy, which has already led to changes allowing Cubans to set up their own small businesses and buy and sell cars and homes.

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