Tropical storm Noel takes toll on Cuban sugar
Fri Nov 2, 2007 12:03pm EDT
By Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) – Tropical storm Noel left thousands of hectares of
sugar cane under water in eastern and central Cuba and seriously damaged
infrastructure, official media said on Friday, as rain continued in the
The Communist party newspaper Granma reported "significant damage" in
eastern Guantanamo province, "extensive areas of cane flooded" in
neighboring Holguin province, and "ravaged" plantations in Las Tunas
Extensive areas of cane were also flooded in eastern Santiago de Cuba
and Granma provinces, as well as the central provinces of Camaguey and
Ciego de Avila.
Thousands of miles of secondary roads and rails used by the industry
were washed out, while damage to major roads and rails left much of the
area without adequate supplies of fuel and food, state-run media
reported, without further detail.
Unlike in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, no deaths were reported.
Noel meandered for three days across eastern into central Cuba before
exiting to the north, though associated rainfall continued into Friday.
The area was already saturated by twice the normal rainfall in September
Cuban plantations lack adequate drainage systems.
"From 120 meters up on a hill the cane plantations look like rice
paddies, completely flooded," Las Tunas radio reporter Juan Manuel
Olivares quipped from the cane-producing northern part of the province
Camaguey cane farmer Diogenes Hernandez said in a telephone interview he
"If you realize that from Camaguey east to Guantanamo there is more than
half the country's sugar cane, with this deluge there will be neither
mature cane nor roads to get it out," Hernandez said of the coming harvest.
"It looks like what happened last year — lots of cane and little
sugar," he added.
Unseasonable rainfall and heat combined with industrial and
organizational problems to make the 2007 harvest one of the worst on
record. Output was estimated at around 1.1 million metric tons of raw
sugar, based on provincial reports, compared with the 1.5 million to 1.6
million tons that had been planned.
Through September, sugar officials had waxed optimistic the harvest
would begin early in November and run through April and that there was
far more cane than the previous few years.
But the excessive precipitation has apparently dampened their
enthusiasm, with all but a few mills in the western part of the country
now not expected to open until late December into January.
Poor harvests in recent years have forced Cuba to import between 200,000
and 300,000 tons of low grade whites annually from Colombia and Brazil.
Postponement of the harvest may force additional imports to meet
Cuba consumes a minimum 700,000 tons of sugar per year and 400,000 tons
are destined for a toll agreement with China.