Cuban rum producers worry about threat of another dismal sugar harvest

Cuban rum producers worry about threat of another dismal sugar harvest

HAVANA, Nov 3rd.- Producers of Cuba’s famed rum are feeling the pressure as local sugar production is forecast to remain at record lows this season amid a crippling economic crisis that has sharply reduced supplies of fertilizers, fuel and other inputs necessary to grow sugarcane.

The first of the 25 state sugar mills will start up its machinery in the coming days and the plans released in seven of the 13 sugar-producing provinces point to a production similar to the 350,000 metric tons of unrefined sugar from last season. compared to 1.3 million in 2019.

Cuba produced 8 million metric tons of raw sugar in 1989, before the collapse of its former benefactor, the Soviet Union, caused a steady decline.

“In recent years we have decreased in sugarcane production and we have to reverse that because we not only lose sugar but also all its derivatives, including rum, one of our main exportable items,” said Cuban Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa. at the close of the last sugar harvest in June.

Christian Barré, director of Havana Club Internacional, a state company together with the French firm Pernod Ricard, recently told the press that the company was in contact with suppliers and had secured the supply of cane alcohol for the moment.

While Havana Club is the best-known Cuban brand, other smaller companies also export, such as Ron Santiago, a joint venture with Diageo PLC, and Ron Vigía a private investor.

A European businessman with deep knowledge of the sector said rum manufacturers are competing for domestic cane-based alcohol with pharmaceutical and other industries that have the option of importing non-domestic alcohol.

“You feel the pinch and there is not always the availability that there was before,” he stated.

Historically, Cuba has consumed up to 700,000 tons of sugar a year and exported the rest.