Farmers markets stand out as an exception to the economic rules that govern socialist Cuba. They rely on production incentives, market-based pricing, and a large measure of independent economic activity to help perform the economy’s most vital function: putting food on the tables of 11 million citizens.
Since 1994, these markets have served to increase the supply, diversity, and availability of food; they generate important revenues for independent farmers and other producers; and they provide high-paying jobs for vendors. However, farmers markets are only a partial solution to Cuba’s food and nutrition needs, and their prices put them out of reach for many Cubans. To drive prices down, the Cuban government is working to increase the supply of produce that flows to farmers markets, and has created new types of markets.
This paper attempts to illustrate how Cuba’s farmers markets function, how they are governed, and what they mean to the Cuban people and the economy in which they live. It relies on interviews and field research conducted in Cuba, principally in March and July 2000.
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