Cuba freezes agricultural prices after hurricanes

HAVANA (AP) -- Cuba has frozen prices at farmers markets and is promising to punish vendors who charge more for hard-to-find food as reserves dwindle following two hurricanes.

A decree from the communist government says prices will remain fixed at levels set by regional committees. The government tolerates some supply-and-demand farmer's markets, but there too, prices will revert to pre-hurricane levels for what Cuba calls "basic" products.

The announcement warns of a crackdown on state employees who steal food and construction materials from work for sale on the black market.

Monday's decree appears to be an attempt to reassure Cubans that basic food will not get more expensive as the island struggles to recover from Hurricanes Gustav and Ike.

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

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