Cuba Confronts New Sugar Setbacks

Idle boasts don’t cut cane

sugar-harvestBy Progreso Semanal

HAVANA TIMES – Problems as diverse as shortage of raw material (raw cane), industrial accidents, the breakdown of machinery, lack of rigor and exigency, and the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in eastern Cuba cast doubt on the outcome of the current sugar harvest.

The assessment comes from a veteran journalist who specializes in the subject of sugar production, Juan Valera Pérez, reporting on a study done by industry technicians in the official Granma daily.

During the last sugar harvest, those experts identified the material and human difficulties that prevented a better performance by the industry. They presented a list of actions required to overcome those difficulties, but apparently those recommendations were not followed.

The resulting setbacks endanger an appreciable effort to rescue what used to be the nation’s principal industry. Varela Pérez says that those setbacks were caused by “the inefficiencies in the supply of raw material, breakdowns in the combines and other equipment, the belated delivery of some supplies, and organizational problems that, if they are not resolved at once, will make it impossible for every mill and sugar company to meet its goals.”

Varela Pérez also blames the persistence of mistakes, lack of punctuality and poor focusing similar to the flaws that were criticized last year by the experts.

“A deficit in sugar production is manifested, as the country produces barely 83 percent of what it should have had in bags and warehouses,” he writes. “Add to this the fact that the reduced number of mills with better grinding [facilities] don’t come up with the values that industrial production demands, values that might partly compensate for the sugar that was not produced.”

The article names the provinces and mills that fail to produce cane and/or are inefficient in the grinding and processing of cane. It ends by describing as “idle boasts” the promises made at the start of the 2012-13 harvest, which guaranteed that there would be a significant increase in production.

3 thoughts on “Cuba Confronts New Sugar Setbacks

  • Actually, I did not forget the de-mechanization which has taken place in Cuban sugar cultivation and processing. On the contrary, your comment further makes my point. By virtue of decisions made personally by Fidel years ago, Cuban sugar production continues to decline to this day. On his orders, rather than using the revenues from the Soviet-purchased sugar to modernize the mills built with post World War II ‘technology’, he wrongly assumed the relationship with the USSR would not only continue far into the future but that the US and the West would crumble. As a result, he put off normal maintenance and modernization of Cuban infrastructure and instead spent like a crazy man attempting to foment leftists revolutions around the world. Of course, he was taking his marching orders from the Kremlin but he had some discretion. Well, we now know he bet on the wrong horse and the Cuban people are suffering the consequences.

  • You are forgetting that Cuba went from having the most heavily mechanized agriculture in Latin America and using adequate fertilizers and pesticides to using oxes, manual labor and “organic” crops.

    That little change by itself makes all the difference in the world in the yields, add that the industrial base got decimated by the lack of maintenance and most mills where dismantled, that the technology of the remaining ones is obsolete and that there is no incentive to produce sugar over other more profitable crops and you’ll get the current situation.

    I recall using the example of the sugar production to explain the absurdity of the dual currency and market segmentation and how it throws out of the window any kind of strategical planning or even the most basic things like know if a specific sector is profitable or not. Well, this is the result of that: failed metrics leads to vodoo policies without any backing in reality whatsoever and when implemented lead to failed economic sectors and economic downsizing. And thus, the whole economy does yet another leap in the downward spiral.

  • After the Cuban sugar harvest of 2010, the worst yield in more than 100 years, General-President Raul fired the head of the Ministry of Sugar Luis Manuel Avila Gonzalez and began to reorganize the sugar production industry in Cuba. In 2011, Castro formed the state-owned business group Azcuba, and dissolved the once powerful Ministry of Sugar. Despite optimistic projections as recent as this January of a May harvest planned to be 20 percent greater than last year’s, once again, sugar production will fall short of expectations. Last November, the Castros signed two ‘joint-venture’ agreements with foreign companies to attract outside capital and, allegedly, have several other joint ventures under consideration. Once the world’s leading sugar exporter, this year’s harvest in Cuba may result in Cuba being forced to cut or ration local consumption in order to meet export agreements signed with China, Vietnam and others. How do you explain sugar harvests which once exceeded 7 million tonnes now unable able to meet humble projections of 1.7 million tonnes. Same soil, same rain, same sun? Castros.

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