Cuba says 1.7 million tonne sugar plan in doubt

Cuban raw sugar production is 17 percent behind schedule toward a target of 1.7 million tonnes, official media said over the weekend, putting in doubt hopes to increase output 20 percent over the previous season.

The report indicated industry performance deteriorated during the peak yield months of February and March.

In early February, production was 7.8 percent behind schedule, said Leobel Perez Hernandez, spokesman for state-run sugar monopoly AZCUBA.

“The lack of cane arriving at mills is today the main brake on a harvest, which due to its deficit, threatens the plan,” the Communist Party Granma said in its weekend edition.

Granma blamed the breakdown of cane-cutting machines and transportation equipment, the late arrival of spare parts and management problems for mills operating at just 65.3 percent of capacity, compared with the 71 percent planned.

“The country to date has barely accumulated 83 percent of the sugar it should have,” Granma said.

“History demonstrates the danger of ending March and beginning April with capacities poorly utilized,” Granma said. “This period threatens extreme complications.”

The harvest runs from December into May, with hot and humid summer weather lowering cane yields and making harvesting more difficult by the middle of April.

AZCUBA said when the harvest began that most mills would close in April, but they will now have to operate well into May, a costly proposition.

Cuba consumes between 600,000 and 700,000 tonnes of sugar a year and has a 400,000-tonne toll agreement with China.

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