14ymedio, Havana, 24 November 2021 — The Azcuba State monopoly itself has filled its latest statements with caution when announcing the start of this year’s sugar harvest on the island: no good news is in sight for the sector.
“The most important thing is to talk with the sugar workers about the difficult conditions in which the country will carry out this harvest,” warned Jorge Luis Tapia Fonseca, deputy prime minister, during a meeting with officials and producers from Matanzas.
An industry expert, who gave spoke anonymously to Reuters, put it bluntly: “The industry has more or less collapsed. The situation is worse this year than it was in the past and it will take time to reverse it.”
The British news agency reported this Wednesday that the Cuban Government transformed its 56 plants into separate companies that will include local plantations and that they will be able to set wages and cane prices as well as maintain control of 80% of their export earnings.
“For the workers of the recently created agro-industrial sugar companies, it was not easy at all to face the period of repairs, both of the mill and the agricultural machinery, under the pressure of enormous limitations of spare parts, supplies and other material resources, and in addition, the scourge of covid-19 in the most critical months of the pandemic,” Azcuba explained in a note on Tuesday .
The note informs that the harvest, which normally starts in November, will begin late, on December 5, at the 14 de Julio station in Cienfuegos.
Tapia Fonseca insisted on a “critical analysis” and “we have to pay more to those who produce and review the workforce of non-direct workers in each group.” He spoke of the need to evaluate sowing “by the degree of germination of the crops and not for the fulfillment of the plan of hectares,” and requested “a diversification of the agricultural productions in all the productive forms.”
For his part, Jorge Santana Hernández, general director of the agroindustrial sugar company Mario Muñoz, from the municipality of Los Arabos, in Matanzas, confessed that they have “a 6% delay” in repairing machinery, but said they hope to start production on December 20.
Last year’s harvest was a real catastrophe . With just 816,000 tons of sugar, 68% of the 1.2 million planned, the Island had the worst figure since 1908.
According to official figures, last year Cuba was only able to count on 416,000 tons of sugar for national consumption, since it had committed an annual sale of 400,000 tons to China. The Island consumes annually between 600,000 and 700,000 tons of the product.
The worst harvest since the 1959 Revolution was 2009-2010, when 1.1 million tons were reached, which forced the Cuba to import sugar from France made from beets.
Of the 156 sugar mills were in operation before 1959, only 56 remain. In that year, 5.6 million tons of sugar were produced, which increased in the 1970s and 1980s to seven and eight million tons a year.
However, the expert consulted by Reuters announced that the situation could improve if appropriate measures were taken: “They will have to go further with reforms, attract foreign investment or divert money from other sectors such as tourism.”
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