Cuba sees continued growth in sugar production
Wed Jul 9, 2008 9:07am EDT
HAVANA, July 9 (Reuters) – Cuba is investing in sugar cutting combines,
trucks and other equipment and retooling mills in preparation for a big
jump in output in 2008-2009, the official media said Wednesday.
"The country is planning a 25 percent to 30 percent increase in sugar
and molasses for the coming harvest and will meet refined sugar demand,"
the Juventud Rebelde newspaper quoted Orlando Garcia Ramirez, vice
minister of sugar who testified before a parliament hearing on Tuesday.
"It is investing in refineries, distilleries, electrical generation
capacity, increasing storage space and introducing high productivity
sugar cutting combines," the paper said.
Cuba imported 22 Mann combines from Brazil for the just concluded harvest.
The harvest runs from December through April when the rainy season
begins, but this year mills ground into June due to an unusually dry May.
The Cuban harvest is more than 80 percent mechanized and rains hamper
cutting machines and trucks entering plantations.
Raw sugar production was 1.5 million tonnes for the just concluded
2007-2008 harvest, compared with 1.2 million tonnes the previous
harvest, refined sugar doubled to 200,000 tonnes and molasses for animal
feed increased 300 percent, the first increases in output since the
industry was downsized by more than 50 percent in 2003.
Cuba consumes a minimum 700,000 tonnes of sugar per year, and 400,000
tonnes are destined for China.
Sugar Minister Ulises Rosales del Toro said in June that the industry
had met all its external and internal obligations, after importing
200,000 to 300,000 tonnes of low-grade refined sugar from Brazil and
Colombia in recent years.
Garcia told the parliament hearing 2007-2008 harvest did not meet its
1.6 million tonne plan due to the late arrival of supplies and other
milling problems which he said would not occur again.
These problems have plagued the state-run industry for a number of years.
Nevertheless, Garcia said, foreign exchange earnings were 27 percent
more than planned, or $50 million more, due to higher sugar prices.
(Editing by John Picinich)