Cuba’s sugar harvest worst in over century, another hit to ailing economy

More than half of the plant for the current sugar harvest have not yet started

HAVANA, May 25 (Reuters)   Cuba’s emblematic sugar harvest topped out at just over half of the government’s target this year, according to state-run newspaper Granma, representing another major blow to the country’s already crisis-racked economy.

That 2021-2022 harvest hit just 52% of the goal for the season, Granma said, or approximately 474,000 tons. That is nearly half of last year’s crop of 800,000 tonnes, which was already the worst since 1908.

The report, which cited a spokesman for Azcuba, the state-run sugar company, blamed the shortfall primarily on a lack of inputs, including oxygen for sugar production, fertilizers, pesticides, fuel and spare parts for plant machinery.

“The financial factor was among the most influential in the results of the harvest, exacerbated by the intensification of the economic, commercial and financial blockade of the US Government against the island,” the Granma report said.

The report said only 37% of the necessary herbicides and pesticides were available for use this season.

The spokesman also noted problems related to “administration, labor and technological discipline,” according to the report, which he said remained unresolved.

Sugar has long been a point of pride for Cuba, critical to the production of its iconic rum and a key source of foreign exchange and employment in the island’s poor agrarian interior.

Economy minister Alejandro Gil said in December that Cuba planned to produce 911,000 tonnes this year, with 500,000 tonnes earmarked for domestic consumption, and the rest for export.

Granma noted that despite the steep drop in output, the state sugar company had guaranteed enough raw sugar to provide Cubans with their monthly, state-supplied ration through the end of 2022.

Cuba had also planned to sell China 400,000 tonnes, part of a standing agreement with Beijing. The report did not make clear what had come of that deal.