The Communist-run country produced just over 800,000 tonnes of raw sugar last season, its worst performance since 1908 and just 10% of a high of 8 million tonnes in 1989. Experts consulted by Reuters say 2022’s production could be even lower.
MILL OPENING DELAY
The harvest usually begins in November and runs into May, but this year the first mill will open on Dec. 5, with the bulk beginning to grind in late December into January.
Last year, 38 mills opened and this year there will be fewer, according to provincial media reports.
Key sugar-producing provinces Villa Clara and Las Tunas provinces estimate the output of around 125,000 tonnes each, slightly more than last season, while Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, Granma and Artemisa provinces expect smaller crops than the previous season.
It was unclear how much sugar Cuba exported this year and whether it imported any to meet local demand.
Like other industries, agriculture and cane cultivation face structural problems in the import-dependent command economy which the government is only just addressing. New reforms, including a steep devaluation of the local currency and decentralization of export earnings, are aimed at once again boosting production.
At the same time, industry experts consulted by Reuters said there is no money to begin recovery to export, nor access to multilateral financing.
With the population fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, and tourism – the driver of the economy and foreign exchange – opening up, over time the situation may improve, the sugar expert said.