Cuba Closes the Worst Sugar Harvest in More Than a Century and Will Have to Import for the Domestic Market

A farmer works on the sugar cane crop in Maduga, Maraeque. (EFE/Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 May 2021 — Catastrophe in the Cuban sugar industry. The preliminary results of this year’s harvest are worse than expected and production is hitting rock bottom. With a harvest of just 816,000 tons of sugar, 68% of the 1.2 million planned, the Island has the worst figure since 1908.

The state monopoly Azcuba has also confirmed in a note released by Prensa Latina that at the end of April only 71% of the planned sugarcane had been milled.

With these numbers, Cuba would only have 416,000 tons of sugar available for national consumption, since it has committed to sell China an annual total of 400,000 tons. The Island annually consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tons of the product.

The data that describe the shortfall are very precise: 57% is attributed to lack of fuel; 25% to the breakdown of machinery and transport; and 7% to industrial issues. The rest is attributed to humidity in the fields, for 9%, and Covid-19, for 2%.

All these numbers, according to the state company and the official press, have a responsible party: The United States. The report, entitled Sugar harvest in Cuba receives negative impacts from the US blockade on Radio Cadena Agramonte, in Camagüey, maintains that the country’s economic-financial and energy sector crisis has been accentuated by “the intensification of the blockade,” as the Cuban government refers to the embargo.

Another negative element is that of the industrial performance, which should be 9.53% and reaches 8.62%. The authorities attribute this to the low maturity of the raw material. But milling has also contributed. Azcuba planned to have 38 plants available to mill the sugar, but 12 of them delayed their start, seven due to the humidity of the fields and five due to the delay in the arrival of resources.

The harvest in Cuba runs from November to May, so April 30 is considered the closing date. However, Juan Carlos Santos, vice president of the state company, said that the work will continue if the rains in May are delayed.

Previously, the worst data since the 1959 Revolution was that of the 2009-2010 harvest, when 1.1 million tons were reached, which forced the importation of sugar from France, made with beets.

Of the 156 sugar mills that were in operation before 1959, only 56 remain. In that year, 5.6 million tons of sugar were produced, which increased in the 1970s and 1980s to seven and eight million tons.

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