Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Cuban sugar harvest may fall due to El Nino-related weather

Cuban sugar harvest may fall due to El Nino-related weather
By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - The first of 50 Cuban sugar mills open this week with
prospects of reaching last season's production in doubt due to irregular
weather caused by the El Nino phenomenon, sources close to the industry

Cuba produced 1.9 million tonnes of raw sugar during the last harvest
which ended in May, with AZCUBA, the state sugar monopoly, forecasting
at the time an 8 percent to 10 percent increase for 2015-16.

However, that was before the government reported rainfall through August
was the lowest since 1901. Only 10 percent of Cuban plantations are
irrigated and the industry mainly uses decades-old equipment for
harvesting, transport and milling.

Precipitation has increased since August, and Cuban forecasters predict
the phenomenon known as El Nino, which contributed to the drought, will
now result in more humid weather and rainfall than normal during the

The problem is the sugar cane now needs dry and cool temperatures to
increase yield.

An October estimate of cane found there was around 10 percent less
tonnage available for milling than planned, a local agricultural expert
with ties to the industry said.

"It will be a miracle if we top last season's output," he said,
requesting anonymity to protect his access to information. "If forecasts
of more rain and humidity prove true that will further reduce cane
yields and efficiency."

AZCUBA usually announces its production plan before the harvest begins,
but has been mostly quiet since May.

Company spokesperson Dionis Perez said earlier this month that it would
be a "special" harvest and that the industry hoped to make up for less
cane through improved efficiency.

The drought has been particularly damaging in eastern Cuba, which
produced more than 600,000 tonnes of raw sugar during the last harvest.

The Communist Party daily Granma on Monday reported there was "much less
cane" available in eastern Santiago de Cuba, while in eastern Las Tunas
province local officials said in September there was 11 percent less
cane than the previous year.

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

Sugar was long Cuba's most important industry and export with output
reaching 8 million tonnes in 1991, but today it ranks eighth in exports
behind sectors such as tourism, tobacco, nickel and pharmaceuticals.

(Editing by Daniel Trotta and Marguerita Choy)

Source: Cuban sugar harvest may fall due to El Nino-related weather -
Yahoo News -

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