14ymedio, Jose Gabriel Barrenchea, Santa Clara, 29 May 2016 — With the shutdown of seven of its nine active sites, the 2016 sugar harvest is nearly complete in Villa Clara. It has emerged that the province that currently produces the most sugar in the country has fallen far short of the 250,000 metric tons programmed: as of last Thursday only 180,000 metric tons have been produced, well below the previous harvest.
Only two centers are still milling, Hector Rodriguez of Sagua la Grande, and Panchito of Quemado de Guines. With expected quantities of 36,200 and 39,700 metric tons, respectively, only these plants now have a chance, however remote, of meeting their planned targets. It is very unlikely that the province will reach the 190,000 metric tons proposed by the first secretary of the Communist Party in the region and, in any case, that result would only represent a fulfillment of 76% of its sugar plan.
Among the causes of this marked decline are the late delivery of the assurances needed to start up the plants, but especially the very low agricultural yields and scant maturity of the reeds. This latter, by the way, is a result of last season’s cutting ahead of time much of the cane that would have reached its full development only this year, as a result of last year’s government stubbornness to meet that year’s plans, whatever it took.
The cane cutters are saying that this year they have cut fields that are yielding less than 30,000 arrobas (a measure of weight that varies by country; in Cuba it is 25 pounds) per caballeria (about 33 acres). In addition, the small size of many fields and their less than optimal location prevents a rational distribution of the cutters and resources needed to transport the cane to the mills, which is also taking a toll on the season.
The provincial authorities have insisted, however, that this disastrous season is the fault of the rains, a statement completely at odds with their frequent pronouncements that the province is experiencing a drought. But in Villa Clara, it seems, it is a question of drought when they are talking about aqueducts, and of rains when they are talking about sugar harvests.