Saturday, May 8th 2010 – 06:01 UTC
Cuban Sugar Crop Worst in a Century; Brazilian Investors Could Take over
The current sugar harvest is Cuba's worst since 1905, according to
Communist Party daily Granma. The news comes two days after President
Raúl Castro fired the minister responsible for the area amid increasing
rumours that foreign investors will be invited to take over the industry.
The Sugar Ministry has failed to implement the changes needed to address
chronic problems, the newspaper said. Sugar Minister Luis Manuel Ávila
González was dismissed this week after roughly 16 months in the job. The
official account said he asked to be relieved after acknowledging
"deficiencies" in his job performance. Ávila was replaced by Deputy
Minister Orlando Celso García Ramírez.
Granma said the Sugar Ministry "suffered a lack of objectivity" in its
planning and projections for the current season. It also claimed that
officials' mistakes could no longer be "masked" by blaming the weather
or other external variables.
Last year's harvest was more than 850,000 tons short of the official
forecast, the daily said, following a downward trend that set in after
the sector enjoyed an "encouraging upturn" in 2005-2008. "It is not by
chance that the harvest is closely followed, that its unfavourable
results are noted and painful. Putting it back where it should be is
indispensable," Granma said, calling sugar part of Cuba's heritage.
The Cuban sugar industry underwent a major overhaul between 2002 and
2004, when the number of refineries was slashed from 156 to 61, more
than 100,000 jobs were eliminated and the amount of land planted with
sugarcane shrank from 2 million hectares to around 750,000 hectares.
Cuba produced 1.4 million tons of sugar in the 2008-2009 season earning
more than 600 USD million from exports of the sweetener.
In pre-revolution times, the Cuban crop averaged six million tons and
the country was a leading player in the world market.
There are insistent rumours that President Raúl Castro has invited
Brazilian experts to consider the possibility of attracting investors
from the South American largest economy and a world power in sugar cane
production and bio-fuels from sugar cane.