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Agriculture - May 29

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Cuba's agricultural decline sparks major reform

Marc Frank, Reuters
Communist Cuba's soaring food imports and a decline in its cash crops of sugar, tobacco, coffee and citrus have led new President Raul Castro to launch what is developing into a sweeping reform of agriculture.

Decision-making, from land use to resource allocation, has moved from the national to local level, stores are opening where farmers can buy some supplies for the first time in decades and increasingly they can sell their produce directly to local consumers and state institutions like schools and hospitals.
(3 April 2008)
From Juventud Rebelde (Cuba):
President of the Cuban Parliament said that food production is a key subject for national security
Searching for Formulas to Rescue Cuban Agriculture


India's Rice Farmers Abandon Paddies, Deepening Global Shortage

Thomas Kutty Abraham, Bloomberg
Kurukkupotta Kandai Vasu's family has grown rice in Kerala, India, for four generations. Now, the 62- year-old farmer buys the food staple in his local store.

When the annual monsoon rains reach India's southernmost state this week, Vasu will sit out the planting season because he can't recoup the cost of fertilizer, seeds and pesticides.

``The cost of cultivation has more than doubled, but the yield has only fallen,'' said Vasu, pointing at his barren paddy field below a green hill near Mundur, a village 2,665 kilometers (1,656 miles) from New Delhi.

... To ensure it can feed India's 600 million poor, the government banned rice exports April 1, contributing to a shortage on world markets that drove the price of the grain to a record last month and sparked food riots from Haiti to Egypt. The curb caused local prices to lag behind the international increase, encouraging Vasu and other growers to switch to more lucrative crops and further reducing supply.
(27 May 2008)


Grain prices grow, but so do risks
Some elevator operators struggle to finance margin calls

Stephen J. Hedges, Chicago Tribune
... The skyrocketing cost of commodities, which is driving up food prices, has upset the balance throughout agriculture, leading to windfalls for some farmers and grain processors. But it also is creating unprecedented risks because not everyone has the financial wherewithal to ride out the volatility.

In corn's long journey to market, in which farmers grow the corn but an interlocking web of investors finances it, grain dealers are seeing the cost of doing business rise. And not everyone can manage. Market pressures have overwhelmed some Illinois grain elevators, with at least four closing in the last year.
(26 May 2008)

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