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Cuba produces best sugar harvest in 11 years

(Richard Bain photo courtesy National Renewable Energy Laboratory (U.S.) and ARS/USDA)

Havana | Reuters — Cuba’s sugar harvest grew 18 per cent this year to 1.9 million tonnes, the most for the beleaguered industry in 11 years and the best performance since the state sugar company Azcuba was founded in 2011, official media said on Friday.

The Communist Party daily Granma said the harvest, which began in November, had ended. Last year’s harvest produced 1.6 million tonnes.

Company spokesman Liobel Perez attributed the higher tonnage to improved efficiency at the mills and increased production of cane, Granma reported.

The company had hoped to produce more than two million tonnes but was impeded by late startups at mills, breakdowns, transportation and other problems, Perez said.

The Cuban sugar ministry was closed down in 2011 and Azcuba formed after output declined to 1.1 million tonnes, the lowest in more than a century and far below the eight million tonnes produced in 1990 before the collapse of former benefactor the Soviet Union.

“Though the results are still less than hoped for, one has to recognize that for five years (Azcuba) has increased production,” Granma noted.

When Azcuba was formed it said output would be 2.4 million tonnes by 2015.

The latest harvest is the best since 2004, when it totaled 2.5 million tonnes.

Only eight of 56 mills in the country were built after the 1959 revolution, the last in the 1980s.

Cuba consumes between 600,000 tonnes and 700,000 tonnes of sugar a year and has an agreement to sell 400,000 tonnes annually to China.

Sugar was long Cuba’s most important industry and export but today ranks eighth in foreign currency earnings behind services, remittances, tourism, petroleum products, nickel, pharmaceuticals and tobacco products.

Reporting for Reuters by Marc Frank in Havana.

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