Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

May 5, 1999.

SOME HARD FACTS ABOUT THAT TREMENDOUS 1999 SUGAR CROP! By Orlando Bordón Gálvez, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - In late April, with an abundance of triumphant propaganda, the government announced to the Cubans living on the island that this sugarcane harvest (which has not yet ended as of today) will achieve the set goal of producing 3.6 million tons of sugar.

According to the state's report, this success is due essentially to the fact that work was performed on the basis of correct strategies and decisions, together with implementation of new methods of payment, improvements in labor organization and an adequate system of workers' emulation. It also was stated that the result shows a sure step in the state endeavor for the recovery of the sugarcane industry and the progressive increase of the sugar volumes to be produced.

However, there are many other coherent sets of criteria that would focus this matter from quite different points of view if handled outside the state-imposed censorship. For experts in such matters there is nothing relevant in producing 400 thousand tons of sugar above last year's harvest, when it really means that it barely approaches the levels achieved here in the decade of the 1920's. What's more, it exploits only 30 percent of the existing agricultural and industrial potential.

It is true that the main industrial efficiency indicators have improved, including the important base 96 sugar-to-cane efficiency ratio, but nobody doubts that the levels recorded are related to a favorable combination of drought and cold weather during the harvest months. These were climatological conditions that increased the sugar concentration in the cane and helped the entire agricultural and industrial processes.

Facing this tangible reality it seems erroneous to talk about resounding successes, because the same (unusually intense) drought that has helped today's results is also already affecting the planting activity for the future.

A poll conducted in sugarcane production units in different localities reveals marked delays in the planting, which compromises the raw material for next year's harvest - in particular the planting of springtime seed, about due to start up.

This situation is already jeopardizing the agricultural efficiency of next year's harvest. There also is a scarcity of seed. This fact together with the very bad quality of available seed puts in serious danger the achieving of the planting schedule. That schedule is an indispensable prerequisite to guarantee the continuity of the recovery that the sugar sector needs.

In practical terms, therefore, the production report of this sector is not very encouraging. And the same thing happens with the economic appraisals published (by the state), in spite of the fact that the cost of producing a ton of crude sugar decreased.

Hanging over the results of this harvest is something ominous enough - the depression affecting prices in the world sugar market. At around 4.5 cents of a dollar per pound, prices at the close of April reduced by about US$100 million the value of the 3.6 million tons produced.

Because of these objective obstacles and others of a subjective character, we can see a lot of propaganda and a lot of triumphant posing. But what is nowhere to be seen is the benefit that in real terms the population would receive if it were true that the sugar production is going to grow.

Orlando Bordón Gálvez, Cuba Free Press.

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