The Associated Press
Cuba’s latest sugar harvest came in at about 2.75 million tons, larger than last year but still tiny and less than officials had projected, the communist government announced Friday.
The Communist Party daily Granma quoted Vice President Carlos Lage as saying that the 2003-2004 harvest that ended this spring was 2.9 percent smaller than previously forecast.
The 2002-2003 harvest was about 2.4 million tons, according to government figures announced in late December. The previous two harvests were around 3.9 million tons.
Lage blamed a drought in the island’s east for the production of less sugar than hoped. But he said this year was more efficient than some others, with a drop in production costs and increased shipping speed.
Cuba’s sugar industry has been undergoing a major restructuring over the past several years as officials struggle to improve production and make a once-crucial industry more relevant.
Harvests more than a decade ago were commonly 6.6 million to 7.7 million tons a year, but they slowly declined over the years. The Soviet Union’s collapse erased what was once Cuba’s most lucrative sugar market.
Once the locomotive that drove this island’s economy, sugar has been replaced in recent years by tourism as the island’s primary source of foreign income.
Cuba also is now developing its scientific and technical sectors, especially in biotechnology, and the production of medicines and medical equipment, as potential sources of hard currency.