Santiago de Cuba’s Coffee Harvest Less than 10% of the 2020 Harvest

The lack of coffee due to exports and poor harvests is causing a rise in prices that seems unstoppable. (Venceremos)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 September 2021 — Santiago de Cuba has not harvested even a tenth of last year’s coffee harvest around the same dates, according to Jorge Luis Rondón Borges, who attributes the collapse solely to the weather.

“By the same date last year we were already above 255 tons collected, now we have not yet reached 20, because it did not rain when the plantations needed it most, delaying flowering,” he explained to Radio Rebelde.

In the municipalities that collect the most coffee, Segundo and Tercer Frente, San Luis and Guamá, it has rained in recent days which, in the eyes of the authorities, will contribute to improving the situation. However, it is already difficult to reach the amount set for this campaign, a total of 5,540 tons – 270 more than the previous one — if in the first week not even 8% of what was collected in the same period in 2020 is reached.

According to the local press, the harvesters, who are organized to carry out their work with due precautionary measures due to the pandemic, are motivated by the high prices set for coffee.

In late August, before the harvest season began, the local press warned of resource problems. “Work is being done on the maintenance and repair of pulp mills, coffee mills, drying yards, and mechanical dryers,” explained Radio Rebelde, which at the same time drew attention to the importance of addressing “grain deviations.”

On this occasion, however, no mention has been made of the usual material difficulties or the pandemic and and the only reference is to the weather.

Last year, the Cuban state’s priority in exporting coffee made the product disappear from the shelves of shops. In the first half of 2020 alone, the Asdrúbal López de Guantánamo Coffee Processing Company sold 702 tons to Cubaexport, the highest figure in the last four years.

Antonio Alemán Blanco, general director of the Cuba-Café Company, told the official press that the demand was impossible to meet. “You ask me for data, but there is a reality, the coffee is not to be seen and we cannot increase the supply now. I explain it simply: we are not in a position to satisfy the current demand,” he said.

The shortage, added to sales abroad, have raised prices, both in stores and on the black market. A packet of coffee that could be purchased at the bodegas (ration stores) for between 10 and 15 pesos, can currently cost up to 60.

Meanwhile, in freely convertible currency stores, a 250-gram (just over half a pound) package of Caracolillo costs around $3.45, but is resold for between 600 and 700 pesos ($25 to $30 US).


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