Cubans boost farming to fight post-storm shortages

HAVANA (AP) -- Cuban media says more than 5,000 people have applied to farm idle plots of government land as the island struggles to recover from hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

The Communist Party newspaper Granma says 5,515 Cubans requested farm plots on Wednesday, part of a program to boost food production that is being sped up after the twin hurricanes devastated Cuban farms this month.

The communist government also is under pressure to reduce food imports expected to cost US$2 billion this year. It hopes that letting thousands of private farmers operate on state land will be the answer.

Landless Cubans can apply for about 33 acres (13 hectares), while existing farmers can increase their holdings to 100 acres (40 hectares) each.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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