The Export of Charcoal to Europe, a Minor Joy for Cuban Foreign Trade

The Granmax company began its exports of charcoal to Europe. (Granma)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 8 May 2023 — Cuba has managed to position itself as one of the suppliers of charcoal to Europe, which, after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, saw its main supplier seriously affected. The official press Granma announced with great fanfare over the weekend the first shipment from the state company Granmax to the European market, while the company Horquita, from Cienfuegos, fulfills its plan with the shipment of four containers.

Granmax, a subsidiary of the business unit of Agroindustrial de Granos Fernando Echenique, located in the community of Coboa, in the Granma municipality of Yara, is ready to transfer a shipment of 300 tons of charcoal to the port. It is fabricated from marabou, an invasive weed, with 200 tons of first quality and 100 of second category.

Odisnel Traba Ferrales, Fernando Echenique’s agricultural director, said that the state company has the “conditions” to export 100 tons of charcoal in the rest of the year, in addition to other agricultural products such as lemon, pear lime, habanero chile, hot pepper and banana.

The company thus specifies its first shipment six months after having received the concession as an exporter last November, during the 38th edition of the International Fair of Havana (Fihav 2022), said its director of Exports and Imports, Adrián Rodríguez Galán. During this time, the official added, Granmax was dedicated to obtaining the certification of the work teams to meet the demand and technical requirements of the international market.

The managers pointed out that Granmax can be an intermediary between individual producers to provide their export services. Foreign exchange revenues, Rodríguez Galán added, will be used for the purchase of technological equipment and agricultural inputs, “in order to grow and be competitive in the international market.”

In Cienfuegos, the Horquita Agricultural Company, in the municipality of Abreus, has also closed the export of four containers of its star product Carbomad, destined for the European Union. The issue was news in the local newspaper 5 de Septiembre, which last Friday highlighted that with these results the production plan is 100% fulfilled.

In May, the newspaper says, production “flows satisfactorily” with the storage of three additional containers that will be exported to different countries through the Victoria de Girón Agroindustrial Company, from Matanzas.

Reiner Vázquez, state administrator, said that 40 employees dedicate “the greatest efforts” to the marabou charcoal industry in Juraguá. “There is an enthusiastic collective in love with the task. It’s a difficult job, but the producers come with tremendous energy and a spirit of work,” he said.

To date, they have fulfilled the production and export quota of 80 tons and have another 80 in storage ready to ship at the beginning of next month. Throughout the year, according to the work plan, they expect to obtain 240 tons of charcoal.

At the end of 2022, Cuba managed to improve its export balance to Europe of wood, charcoal and cork. The European Commission reports that it received assets valued at 39 million euros and grew by 39.2% compared to 28 million in 2021. The Island covered 10.7% of the total demand. Before the Russian attack in February 2022, Ukraine headed the list of suppliers of charcoal to Europe, with Germany as the main importer.

Cuba produces marabou charcoal, which has great acceptance in international markets due to its high caloric power, the flavor it brings to food and the lower environmental impact it entails, since the maribou tree is an invasive species.

For decades, the marabou has been a plague that has spread through the Cuban fields, making them useless for other crops. With a woody trunk, large thorns and a great ability to reproduce quickly, the plant has become a symbol of state laziness and centralism that has hit the Island’s agriculture.

In 2018, the country exported between 40,000 and 80,000 tons of this product. In addition, in January 2016, it made his first export to the United States after fifty years of pause, when it sold about 40 tons of artisanal charcoal for $420 a ton.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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