Cuba's sugar industry hit by low productivity
By PAUL HAVEN
Production at Cuba's sugar plants has been hit hard this year by
inefficiency, a spate of breakdowns and other technical problems,
state-media reported Wednesday, adding to sobering news for the
Communist-run island's crisis-addled economy.
Breakdowns and other interruptions have idled plants nearly 19 percent
of the time so far in 2010, the Communist Party newspaper Granma said. A
further 11 percent of production reportedly has been lost due to a lack
of sugar cane.
The paper said problems were worst in the key sugar-growing region of
Las Tunas, 360 miles (600 kilometers) east of the capital.
It also blamed poor planning and "a lack of discipline."
"Overcoming delays and meeting our goals require that those production
centers in crisis eradicate their deficiencies and that the rest
maintain their production levels or increase them," the paper said. "We
must defeat a powerful enemy: lost industrial time."
The harvest and milling season begins each year in January and usually
ends around April or May.
Sugar — once the be-all and end-all of Cuba's economy — now ranks no
higher than third behind nickel production and tourism, contributing
about $600 million a year.
Never a juggernaut, Cuba's economy has been battered by the global
economic crisis, a dip in world nickel prices and the effects of three
devastating hurricanes that hit in 2008. The government controls 90
percent of the economy, paying low wages but heavily subsidizing
education, housing, food and health care.
President Raul Castro has warned that the government will no longer be
able to sustain such subsidies unless production increases dramatically.
Non-sugar agricultural production has also failed to meet targets this
year in many parts of the country. In January and February, production
around the capital was 40 percent below target, despite a major drive by
the government to put more fallow land in the hands of individual farmers.
The tourism industry held up reasonably well in 2009 despite the
economic crisis, with the number of visitors rising slightly but
revenues falling 11 percent.
But 2010 has gotten off to a poor start: About 5 percent fewer tourists
came to Cuba in January than during the same month last year.
Cuba's sugar industry hit by low productivity – BusinessWeek (10 March 2010)