04 Dec Start of Cuba’s Sugar Harvest Impacted by Drought and Hurricane Irma
December 3, 2017 — The sugar harvest began last Sunday with the start-up of the sugar mill Boris Luis Santa Coloma in Cuba’s Mayabeque province. According to the state monopoly Azcuba, the drought that lasted 18 months and the subsequent scourge of Hurricane Irma have had negative effects and will limit production to around 1.5 million tons.
In the last harvest, the country produced just 1.8 million tons of sugar, far from the almost 8 million that it achieved in 1990, before production fell to one million tons due to Fidel Castro’s decision to close dozens of sugar mills when prices plummeted in the international market.
For this harvest, it is planned to operate 53 mills from November to May. Cuba was one of the main producers of sugar and the culture of the refineries and sugar cane is an indissoluble part of its idiosyncrasy, to the point that it used to be said “without sugar there is no country.”
With the end of the Soviet subsidies, estimated at more than 60 billion dollars in three decades, and the loss of the market of the socialist countries, the island opted for other sources of foreign currency, including tourism, nickel and biotechnology.
The reduction in sugar production not only affects the country’s income, but also contributes to reductions in the standard of living in many municipalities and towns of the island, whose residents made a living from the vats if the sugar mill.
These so-called “ghost towns,” where the sugar mills used to employ the majority of the population and defined the local economy, are now trying to recharge their economies with other agricultural or industrial products.
After the passage of Hurricane Irma in September, the national press reported that more than 40% of the cane plantations were lost. Almost a third of the sugar mills were also harmed by Irma, which left 13 of them in “very serious” conditions.
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