Cuban agriculture turning to traditional methods in crisis

Cuba is going back as it looks forward, expanding its use of ox teams in agriculture to save on costly fuel for tractors while increasing production in the desperately needed food sector.

"The current world financial crisis requires a mixture of the modern and the traditional," agricultural expert Juan Varela wrote in the Granma newspaper.

"Our country has sufficient capacity and experience to come out a winner and not allow itself to be defeated by problems and justifications."

Training centers for ox teams are being opened around the central province of Villa Clara to produce more than 3,000 teams, Granma reported Tuesday.

Outside experts argue, however, that the root cause of Cuba's agricultural woes is a centralized state that largely controls what can be planted and when, provides inputs such as seeds and fertilizers and sets prices for the harvests.

"They know what the real problems are," said José Alvarez, emeritus professor at the University of Florida and longtime expert on Cuban agriculture. "But they pretend that they don't have any memory, and they think that we are stupid."

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