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Cuba would soon reimpose taxes on imported food after four years of exemption, the country's customs office said on Friday.

The new regulation would come into effect on June 18, the General Customs Office said in a statement.

Imported food had been taxed since 1979, but the levy was suspended in 2008 as an "exceptional" measure after Hurricanes Gustav, Ike and Paloma caused billions of dollars in losses to the Caribbean nation.

Cuba spends about $2 billion every year importing food, accounting for 80 percent of food consumption in the country, and the cost has been rising due to increasing prices in international markets.

In the past four years, Cubans living in the United States and visiting the island frequently have benefited most from the exemption.

It also greatly benefited the owners of restaurants and coffee shops spreading throughout the island as a result of the economic changes promoted by President Raul Castro, experts said.

According to official figures, 1,618 private restaurants have opened in Cuba since October 2010, when Castro reopened the door to "self-employment".

Castro is currently developing a program to stimulate agricultural production in the country, including the distribution of about 1.4 million hectares of land to more than 160,000 farmers and granting credits to farmers to buy agricultural machinery.


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