The Cuban state sugar group Azcuba announced this Wednesday that “it will not be able to meet its international commitments” after one of the worst harvests in the country’s history, which will mainly affect China.
The director of communications for Azcuba, Dionis Pérez, explained at a press conference that, however, “the delivery of sugar to all Cubans is guaranteed” (about 2.5 kilograms per month per person through the current ration book, in force since 1962).
Pérez did not provide figures to explain Azcuba’s productive situation, but the results of the 2021-2022 harvest had previously been reported in official media.
In mid-May, Azcuba assured the official newspaper Granma that only 53% of its initial forecast had been produced.
According to the plan presented in December before the National Assembly (unicameral Parliament), the forecast was that the harvest would reach 911,000 tons.
Thus, it was possible to calculate that the real harvest was around 431,000 tons, a figure not confirmed by the Cuban state sugar group.
The plan provided for allocating 500,000 tons for domestic consumption and leaving the remaining 411,000 tons for export.
China is one of the main export markets for Cuban sugar, with an agreement through which the Asian country buys 400,000 tons a year from the island, according to official data.
A sector in crisis
Pérez admitted at the press conference that “the sector is in crisis” and mentioned the lack of fuel and fertilizers, the poor condition of the sugar mills where the raw material is processed and of the machinery, as well as the delay in the start of the harvest and the rains.
“No sugar mill started up in November,” Pérez said in a meeting with journalists at the headquarters of the business group to present an international congress on sugar and derivatives, scheduled for June 20-24 in Havana.
He added that there were 20 critical boilers, of the 89 that ground sugarcane in the last harvest and “only 60% of the transport could be used due to lack of resources.”
He also considered the financial factor, among “the most influential due to the economic blockade of the United States,” in reference to the sanctions against Cuba.
Of the 35 sugar mills that participated in the harvest, which ended on May 20, only three fulfilled their production plan.
The sugar industry, a sector classified as “strategic” for the Cuban economy, has been going through a crisis for several years with production reduced to just over a million tons.
In the 2020-2021 period, when 38 mills in the country ground cane, only 66% of the previewed plan of 1.2 million tons of sugar was reached.
At the triumph of the revolution, Cuba had 156 operating factories. In 1959 they produced 5.6 million tons of sugar and later they rose to 8 million in the best harvests, between 1970 and 1989.