The Terrible Forecasts for the Sugarcane Harvest in Sancti Spiritus Will Affect the ‘Basic Basket’ in Cuba

Due to the delays of the last campaign, the Melanio Hernández sugar mill faces major repairs. (Escambray)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 September 2023 — The directors of the  Melanio Hernández sugar mill, in Sancti Spíritus, predict that the harvest of the current period will be worse than that of 2022-2023. As they admitted in statements to the official press, they will grind a volume of cane similar to that of the previous campaign because they will now cut the plants that they could not collect at the time due to lack of fuel.

Antonio Viamontes, director of the mill, revealed to the Escambray newspaper that, as happened last year, Melanio Hernández will be the only one in charge of the grinding. The Uruguay mill, from which 65% of the cane for this grinding comes, is currently dedicated only to cultivation.

The shortage of basic inputs for planting has also affected production. “Despite having the land ready, due to the lack of fuel, the planting plan has not been fulfilled for two years, so we do not plant cane for grinding, it has barely been sown for seed,” he regrets.

The directors of Melanio Hernández predict that during this campaign the mill will grind to 60% of its capacity for a period of about 100 days from the second half of December. However, they cannot guarantee that this plan will be fulfilled in time, since the necessary maintenance works “are larger than the previous year,” and they have just over two months to complete them. So far, only 27% of the work has been carried out.

They cannot guarantee that this plan will be fulfilled in time, since the necessary maintenance works “are larger than the previous year,” and they have just over two months to complete them

“The greatest magnitude is concentrated in the area of mills, specifically in the tandem, which has to be completely disassembled from below,” added Viamontes, who estimates that, in order for the plant to comply with what was established, it would have to be repaired in record time.

With these forecasts, the authorities have extended the working days and will recruit workers from the Uruguay plant, one of the largest in Cuba, which has been closed for two campaigns, since a Russian company took over the plant to “repair” it last October.

The then-director of the factory, Eddy Gil Pérez, showed his enthusiasm to Escambray with the possible Russian management: “We are among the nine mills of the country chosen for these businesses,” he revealed, but a year later the new administrators announced that the Colossus of Jatibonico could not be counted on for the harvest of that period.

This June, the media also announced that in Sancti Spíritus, barely 30% of the harvest plan of the more than 123,553 acres available had been fulfilled. The cause of the delay, it said, was the rains that had prevented the start of planting. During those months there were also delays in the attention to the cane that the newspaper attributed to the lack of inputs and the “difficult economic situation that Cuba faces.”

In other provinces the outlook is no different. In March, it was reported that the Majibacoa mill, the main one in Cuba, located in Las Tunas, had milled 56% of the cane planned for that harvest. Artemisa, which began grinding 30 days late, reported having milled only 58.4% of the planned raw material and produced only 44.9% of the planned sugar.

The directors of Melanio Hernández made an effort to specify that at least the distribution for the basic basket has been assured since the last spring campaign. The statements, however, contradict a report by the official media Invasor, which warns that the regulated sugar, due to the shortage, will go from four pounds to three per person per month throughout the country.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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