Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Harvest of 2012 or the Last Call

The Harvest of 2012 or the Last Call / Dimas Castellano
Dimas Castellanos, Translator: Hank Hardisty

"It seems that every year is the first harvest the country has ever
done. Every year we start fresh, even though we've been producing sugar
for more than 200 years. If we are talking about the need for change,
the first thing we have to change is the routine." So begins, "Attacking
the problems and not waiting for the autopsy," a report by Sheyla
Delgado Guerra, published on Monday, May 30th, in the newspaper, Granma.

The Guidelines of Economic and Social Policy, adopted at the Sixth
Congress of the Communist Party in April last year, set out among the
central tasks, to increase the production of sugar and the derivatives
of the cane, a branch of the economy where it is assumed Cuba has long
experience. However, the results of the 2011-2012 harvest confirmed the
failure of that purpose.

The harvest, programmed to produce 1.45 million tons of sugar (a figure
that was produced in the late nineteenth century), finish milling on
April 30th. There was enough sugar cane and 98% resources needed to
produce the programmed amount of sugar but, according to Sheyla, the
same problems occurred as in previous years: industrial breakdowns,
operational disruptions, difficulties in the supply of cane, unstable
grindings, aging of the raw material, poor quality of repairs of
agricultural machinery, late harvesting, poor technical skills of staff
and poor utilization of potential capacity. As a result the milling did
not end on the date set by central planning, not was the programmed
figure for tons of sugar achieved.

This was confirmed at the meeting to review the results, held 29 days
after all the plants should have completed the milling. Although as in
previous years, the amount of sugar produced has not been published, in
the meeting it was admitted that the setbacks of this season were higher
than results obtained. According to Sheyla's report, the cane not ground
because of the late harvest in 21 of the 46 centers participating,
together with the low capacity utilization and failure of planned
efficiency are among the main causes of the terrible result.

This time, although all the cane needed was grown, to the point where
they could have crushed more than the planned amount, the production of
sugar fell short again. In the industrial phase only 60% the capacity is
used, a figure even lower than the harvest of 2010-2011, and of course
lower than was planned for this crop. While there was a modest
over-fulfillment in the production of white sugar, in terms of direct
target it barely reached 8%. In addition, seven of the mills which after
being inactive for several years, produced 54% of their potential, which
is why some 27,500 tons of sugar was not produced.

To this is added the low yields due to weather conditions in May, for 29
days after the scheduled closing several plants were still milling in
the rainy season, which accentuates the sugar decline, which is nothing
new, the same thing having gone on more than two decades; the 1998-1999
harvest could not exceed 3.8 million tons of sugar, a figure lower than
that produced in 1920, when it exceeded 4 million tons.

The failure is higher if one considers that the country has dozens of
schools and agricultural research centers throughout the country, which
have graduated thousands of engineers and technicians in these fields,
and that this time, from the beginning of the harvest, nearly all the
resources were available to fulfill the plan, all of which indicates we
should look elsewhere for the source of the failures.

Reforms related to sugar production, like the rest of those that have
been implemented, do not have the depth required, nor do they move at
the speed that the situation demands. Clearly, the lack of interest of
the producers — the workers because of low wages and the proprietors
because of the constraints imposed on them — is present in the results
of the current harvest as in the previous failures.

The essence of the problem is that the reforms introduced by the Cuban
government start life subordinated to the ideology and the interests of
power, so the proposals therefore perversely preserve an obsolete model
that has consistently proven to be nonviable.

Adverse outcomes of central planning, manifested in the 2011-2012
harvest, should be the last call, which will definitely draw attention
to the aspects that the reforms have ignored so far. I am referring to
the urgent need for profound changes to include, once and for all, the
ownership structure. Since half a century seems sufficient to indicate
the gap between managers and owners, between command and control and
employee participation, aspects which in turn imply reforms in the area
of rights and freedoms, to validate the previous.

It would be useful to proceed with these changes and not continue
pointing fingers at the "deadbeats" as one of the senior officials did
when he appeared on May 29 on Cuban television. Having participated in
the meeting to review the harvest, he said, "I've told you, they have to
change," something that has become the custom year after year.

Posted in June in Diario de Cuba.

Translated by: Hank Hardisty

June 11 2012

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