14ymedio, Havana, 4 November 2022 — More than a month after the passage of Hurricane Ian, which devastated the west of the country, the Cuban government has as an urgent task to protect more than 6,000 tons of raw tobacco, part of which will be transferred to other provinces from Pinar del Río.
There, the local press reports, of the 33,000 tons of stored leaves, 14,000 were damaged by the destruction of the hurricane on the facilities. Now, says Emilio Triana Ordaz, general director of the Agricultural Transport Company, belonging in turn to Tabacuba, they need nine trains to carry about 3,000 tons to Sancti Spíritus, Matanzas, Villa Clara and Cienfuegos.
“With the passage of the hurricane, most of our warehouses, depositories and selected leaves suffered damage. The tobacco was left under waxed or polyethylene tarps, not under the roof, so the mission is to move a considerable amount in and out the province,” explained Triana Ordaz, revealing the urgency.
On Saturday, the State newspaper Granma published, in the words of the same official, that even before Ian “we had decided to send about 2,000 tons of the leaf to the central provinces, to expedite the selling process.”
According to the provincial newspaper, Guerrillero, each train can hold about 300 tons and be filled in four days. “The operation is designed for three trains to be rotated: one being filled, one in the process and another being unloaded,” Triana Ordaz continued. If these plans are achieved, it won’t take more than a month to complete the mission.
Another state official, Vladimir Ríos Pérez, pointed out that they have about 4,800 tons “to sell at a discount,” and they will keep about 1,600 in Pinar del Río “to fulfill the 2023 plan.”
In any case, they recognize that in San Juan and Martínez, where almost all the warehouses collapsed, “we need to build 1,384 curing houses to guarantee the success of the campaign,” something that probably won’t happen soon.
Tabacuba officials also announced that they have “readjusted” the plans and decided to postpone the campaign for another month, until January 30.
In addition, they report that the insurance covered “80 million pesos and must cover 60 or 70 million more.” The damage to production, however, is significant: Pinar del Río tobacco, even unprocessed, is considered the best in the world, and its quality depends on the integral care of the leaf and the skill of the local farmers.
Meanwhile, this Thursday, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel again visited the area most affected by Hurricane Ian. It is the eighth time since the disaster that he has, according to the official press, which displays a tweet from the presidency saying that the president travels to Pinar del Río “every week.”
Despite the usual triumphalist language of the note, it is reported that most of the damage is still not repaired. In the municipality of Guane, only 23% of the 3,450 “affects” that exist have been resolved. And only 400 of the 2,000 homes have been restored in Sandino, one of the “captive villages” where hundreds of families linked to the Escambray uprising were banished in 1964.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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