Cuban sugar harvest one of lowest in 120 years, exports met

Cuban sugar harvest one of lowest in 120 years, exports met

HAVANA, June 10th (Reuters) – The Cuban state-run sugar monopoly Azcuba met its export commitments for this season despite output weighing in 13% below plan, the official Prensa Latina news agency reported over the weekend, citing company spokesman Liobel Perez.

Perez told the news agency this season’s performance was 31% above last year’s output of around a million tonnes.

Economy Minister Alejandro Gil Fernandez at a government meeting in December said Cuba would produce 1.5 million tonnes of raw sugar and export 920,000 tonnes.

The Caribbean island, where sugar once was synonymous with its name, produced 1.9 million tonnes of raw sugar during the 2016-2017 harvest, according to the International Sugar Organization. But a prolonged drought, Hurricane Irma in September 2017 and out-of-season rainfall devastated the following crop.

Cuba is going through a grave liquidity crisis due to the collapse of strategic ally Venezuela, new U.S. sanctions and the Soviet-style economy’s inefficiencies.

The country has drastically cut imports creating new problems for the already decapitalized industry.

Perez said none of Cuba’s 13 sugar-producing provinces met their plans and just 17 of 54 mills.

Perez blamed various problems, including “the late arrival of spare parts for mills, harvesters and trucks … the poor condition of roads, lack of workers and quality of cane.”

Harvesting begins in November, is in full swing by January and ends in May, when summer humidity and rainfall make work difficult and costly. Mills operating into June are rare.

Cuba consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tonnes of sugar a year and has an agreement to sell China 400,000 tonnes annually. It sells the rest on the open market.

Cuba imported some sugar last year and will most likely do so again this year.