Cuba will “soon” start selling a biotech sweetener substitute for traditional sugar, produced at the island’s Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB). The fruit-oligosaccharide (FOS) is made from sorbitol and an enzyme obtained in that center, Prensa Latina (PL) news agency reported.
Developed in conjunction with the AzCuba sugar group, it is a prebiotic and hypocaloric fiber “with great beneficial actions for health,” said Mario Estrada, director of agricultural research at CIGB, who, however, did not detail when or where the new product will be sold in Cuba.
PL does not specify whether it will be sold as a substitute for traditional sugar, which is marketed on the island freely and on the ration book, or if it will be a complement to the sugar already sold this way.
Estrada also announced the intention to export the sweetener, since “it constitutes an exportable product” which in the international market “has 10 times more value than traditional sugar.”
He said that, in that sense, it could become “another source of income for the country,” at a time when the government of President Miguel Díaz-Canel is calling for increasing exports and diversifying the industry.
The news is important at a time when Cuba is in the middle of the sugar harvest, a traditional campaign on the island that in recent years has suffered delays and failures, and that last year produced only 1.3 million tons of sugar, one of the lowest figures in the last century.
For this reason, the island went from being an exporting nation to importing sugar from countries like France.
This Thursday President Díaz-Canel also warned of possible effects on the current harvest due to “the eventual lack of fuel,” PL also reported.
The president advised “redesigning productive strategies in sugar production” and said that “in case of shutdowns due to lack of energy carriers, it would be necessary to take advantage of the maintenance of the plants in order to be in better conditions when they restart operations.”
According to the official press report, 56,000 tons of the planned sugar have not been produced in 68 days of harvest due to weather problems, breakages and “difficulties with fuel, parts and spare parts.”
Cuba is going through a complex economic situation, intensified by the recent measures of the United States government against the island which in the second half of 2019 caused an “energy situation” that forced the Cuban government to readjust productions, services and sectors such as transportation.