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The 2018 or the 1894 Sugar Cane Harvest?

These are the appalling numbers on Cuba's sugar production.

Los Ángeles

Imagine if the world's developing countries, depending economically on the export of raw materials, now posted production volumes for their main exportable items lower than 124 years ago, at the end of the 19th century.

Impossible? No, this is the case in Cuba, which has actually regressed in this regard. Some days ago the 2017-2018 harvest  ended "without meeting production objectives," according to Azcuba (State sugar production agency) president Orlando Celso García, who, talking to reporters, revealed his contraction of the Castroist virus of secrecy, as he did not disclose the most important part of all: the production figures.

But, due to indiscretions, involuntary or not, it has come to light that it amounted to about 1.1 million tons (MT), for a 40% drop, down from the 1.8 million in 2017. That is the same tonnage as that obtained in 1894 (1.06 million MT) – a year before Martí and Gómez landed at the Playita de Cajobabo, 116 years before the Cuban flag flew over the Castillo del Morro.

Las Tunas, the province slated to produce the most sugar, 198,310 MT, produced 100,000 MT. It is home to the Antonio Guiteras (formerly Delicias) sugar plant, which in 1953 was the world's most productive, turning out 20,395 MT, according to the Ministry of Finance at that time. Another key province, Camagüey, according to Reuters, barely produced 76,000 MT of the 145,000 MT planned.

Orlando Celso did speak extensively about the inclement weather, which would almost seem to be an "agent of the CIA," as it only affects Cuba, and not other sugar-producing nations not yet "liberated" from imperialism.

No regime bureaucrat could explain how the other sugar-producing countries flood the sugar market if they are on the same planet, where it rains, there are droughts, typhoons, hurricanes and storms. Rains and droughts certainly hinder sugar production, but that is not an excuse for the total disaster affecting an entire industry.

The International Sugar Organization (ISO) forecasts that by 2018 179 million tons will be produced globally, a figure that will exceed consumption by about two million MT. In 1970 72.5 million MT were produced. That is, in 48 years the figure has multiplied by 2.5 times. In summary, in spite of natural impediments, the world's production of sugar just keeps on growing ... except in Cuba.

Dreadful agricultural and industrial inefficiency

An official in Camagüey, Lázaro Alvarez Padilla, told Reuters, "boldly," that the 2018 sugar bust was due to poor repairs in the agricultural industry and equipment problems, operational errors, the lack of cane, and other subjective problems.

But he failed to mention agricultural and industrial yields, today among the lowest in the world, when before 1959 they were among the highest. Nor did he point out that Fidel Castro dismantled 64% of the sugar industry, dedicating 60% of all the country's sugarcane lands to other crops; today they serve to graze livestock, or are overgrown with marabou. Only 54 plants remained standing, burdened by outrageous technological obsolescence.

In terms of efficiency, in 1940 Cuba registered industrial performances of 13.17%. In other words, out of every 100 parts of cane, by weight, more than 13 parts of sugar were extracted, something never before achieved on the planet. In the 1950s, the average industrial yield was 12.7%, the highest in the world.

When Castro nationalized the industry and the sugar cane fields, Cuban leadership in the industry came to an end. Yields became a national embarrassment. Since 1967 the island has posted the lowest production rates in the Americas. They oscillate between 24 and 42 tons of cane per hectare, according to the National Statistics and Information Office (ONEI). They do not reach even half the international average of 65-76 tons of cane per hectare.

Before 1959 Cuba was the Latin American leader, but today it is Peru, with up to 128 MT of cane per hectare, according to FAOSTATS, the FAO database. It is followed by Guatemala, with 95 MT. The Dominican Republic: 80 MT. 

But there’s even more. Even poor African nations resoundingly beat the former world leader in sugar production. According to the FAO, in 2014 Senegal produced 117 MT of cane per hectare; Malawi, 107; Zambia, 104; Chad, 102; Burkina Faso, 101; and Ethiopia, 99. Are there no droughts or heavy rains in those countries south of the Sahara?

The last straw: a sugar-importing country

With its 1.1 million MT in 2018, Cuban production represents only 0.6% of global sugar production. Compare that to the 33% that the harvest of 1894 meant worldwide, according to the OIA. Data from the World Sugar Council indicate that in 1960 Cuban sugar production was 5.9 million MT, and represented 11.4% of the world total of 52 million MT. In 1970, with 8.5 million MT, Cuba still accounted for 11.7% of the global tonnage.

In other words, in 1970, when the Soviet Union fully financed the harvest, in Cuba almost 12 MT of every 100 produced in the world were produced. But in the 1950s, the island exported half of all the sugar that was traded internationally, with a production of between 5.3 and 7.1 million metric tons, at 161 plants, and an average industrial yield of almost 13%.

Cuba was, for more than 160 years, the leading producer and exporter of sugar in the world, but today, after the ravages of Castroist Communism, it languishes at the bottom of the list. The world's current sugar leader is Brazil, with 36 million MT in 2016, according to the US Department of Agriculture. It is followed by India, with 29.1 million MT, the European Union (15.5), Thailand (11.4), the USA (7.7), Mexico (6.4), Australia (5.8), Pakistan (5.4) and Russia (4.5 million MT).

The most revealing fact of all is that, once the world's leading exporter of sugar, Cuba now actually has to import it.

The economic crisis grows worse

The calamitous drop in the harvest in 2018 comes at a time when the regime's cash shortage is the most severe since the fall of the USSR. This time its benefactor (chavistaVenezuela) has not died yet, but is in intensive care. Caracas has cut its distribution of cash and oil to Havana to a minimum.

In addition to the drop in Venezuelan subsidies the number of tourists arriving fell by 7% in the first quarter, a trend that has continued. And the exports of goods in 2017, worth $2.301 billion, were the lowest since the $2.217 billion in 2009.

Even if the regime manages to get China to accept less than the 400,000 MT that Cuba was supposed to deliver to it, it will have to import sugar. National consumption comes to about 700,000 MT. The rationing book alone calls for more than 255,000 MT. Then there is the supply for sale, hospitals, schools, hotels, etc.

Thus, despite having less money than ever, the regime will have to buy sugar, and reduce its already very ailing volume of imports, in general, in a nation that needs to import almost everything, because it produces almost nothing. The less sugar is produced, the less food, medicine, raw materials and consumer goods will be imported, including those that are sold at shopping centers.

In short, producing the same in 2018 as in 1894 has consequences. And it is not the climate that should be sitting in the dock of the accused, but rather the economic dogmas of Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.

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