Cuba sets sights on sugar

The 2015-2016 sugar harvest is beginning this week, with sugarcane plantations pressured by the drought.

To the extent that the harvest advances, sugarcane producers will find out exactly about the magnitude of the damages of the drought affecting Cuba.

Cuban sugar mills are again staring up this week in a harvest foreseen as tense by the shadow of the drought and the traditional conflicts with resources. Recent reports indicate that fewer factories will start grinding before the close of December compared to the previous year.

The Azcuba business group, which monopolises sugar production in the country, has programmed the incorporation of 50 factories in the 2015-2015 harvest, which is beginning this November 25 in a sugar mill located in the province of Mayabeque, in western Cuba. Out of the total, 33 will start working in the first stage, the so-called small harvest – until December -, a specialist from that firm, Dionis Pérez Pérez, announced. However, in the previous harvest, 46 sugar mills processed cane at the start of January 2015.

 

“This will be a special sugar harvest,” Pérez Pérez told the press when commenting that there is less raw material due to the strong drought, considered one of the most serious affecting Cuba since the early 20th century.

 

“We have less cane than expected,” he affirmed.

 

Faced by the foreseeable contraction of agricultural yields, the government is pinning its hopes on achieving better industrial efficiency indices to raise sugar production. Last September, Vice President José Ramón Machado Ventura insisted during a meeting with the sector’s company executives that “under no circumstances are we going to give up on producing greater amounts of sugar and by-products.”

 

Azcuba reported that it aims to achieve an industrial yield of 10.6 tons of raw sugar per each 100 tons of grinded sugarcane. If this were achieved, it would significantly surpass the result of this indicator during the previous harvest, when the yield was only 9.5 tons. Another data that would support the expectations of a greater production has to do with the potential grinding capacity of the sugar mills: from a 65 per cent achieved a year before, the business group is planning to take advantage of the potential norm to 76 per cent.

While some sugar mills are beginning to grind cane, others are making repairs and the final adjustments of machinery.

While some sugar mills are beginning to grind cane, others are making repairs and the final adjustments of machinery.

 

During the 2014-2015 harvest, Cuba did not meet its sugar production plans but achieved a strong growth of 18 per cent over the previous harvest. This enabled it to produce around 1.6 million tons of sugar according to estimates by experts, considered the largest amount in the last 11 years.

 

Despite the gradual increase in sugarcane yields – during the previous harvest, 45 tons of sugarcane per hectare -, they are far from being the best in many plantations and cooperatives, executives from the National Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) have recognised.

 

Sugarcane producers and sugar mill operators traditionally complain about commercial mistakes that delay the reception of the necessary resources for the crops or for industrial maintenance. This year similar problems were repeated in some provinces that are at the head of Cuban sugar production, like Holguín. Faced by the problem, Azcuba has taken measures and promised greater guarantees in supplies.

 

From abroad, on the other hand, there are favourable signs for Cuban sugar exports.

 

The prices for this raw material dropped in August to their lowest level in six and a half years on the international market, between 10 and 11 cents per pound in New York. But later the prices have shown a rising tendency – 15.30 cents at the close of last week – encouraged by the expectations of a deficit after years of surplus.

 

The International Sugar Organisation (ISO) raised its forecast of a 3.5-million-ton deficit of this product during the 2015-2015 season and said that the decline could extend to the following season. (2015)

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