14ymedio, Miami, 15 June 2018 — The Cuban government has decided to cut sugar exports in the face of this year’s poor harvest, sources at the state conglomerate Azcuba told Reuters.
“The next harvest will be advanced as much as possible to satisfy local consumption,” said Lourdes María Castellanos, director of international relations at Azcuba, who also indicated that state reserves will be used, along with a “small cut in exports,” to maintain supplies.
Cuba consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tons of sugar per year, a good part of which is distributed at very low cost to the consumer through the ration book at a rate of 4 pounds per person per month. The distribution of sugar, however, has been affected because the industry has not been able to fulfill its contracts abroad.
Along with the quota received from the rationed market, for years Cubans have been able to easily buy sugar in the non-rationed markets and also in informal trade networks.
In recent weeks, however, it has become a headache trying to find sugar in the face of fears of an impending shortage in the wake of this year’s bad harvest. Those most affected by the shortages are the private sellers of sweets and candies, as well as the cafes that offer milkshakes or sugary juices.
Knowledgeable sources in the sector estimate this year’s harvest as only 1.1 million tons, a figure not seen in Cuba for a century.
The spokesman for Azcuba, Liobel Pérez, did not deny or confirm the estimate. Cuba does not provide figures on its industrial production in real time. Researchers are referred to the National Office of Statistics and Information, which generally publishes the data one year late.
For decades, sugar production was the driving force of the national economy, rising to more than 8 million tons of sugar by the end of the 1980s. However, the end of the Soviet subsidies, the lack of investments and bad management by the State sank the industry.
The government attributes this terrible harvest to Hurricane Irma, the heavy rains and the US embargo. In 2017, the country produced 1.8 million tons of sugar, of which 1.1 million were exported, according to the International Sugar Organization.
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