Marc Frank | Reuters
The first of 44 Cuban sugar mills scheduled to grind during the 2009-2010 harvest opened on Thursday, official media reported, with final output by May forecast at 1.3 million to 1.4 million tonnes of raw sugar.
“The Mario Munez mill began production today ... to reach full capacity and stability by Saturday, the date the harvest will officially begin,” the mid-day radio newscast said.
Seven mills are scheduled to open this month and the remainder in January and February, with the harvest scheduled to end by May.
Cuba has yet to release results from the last harvest, which Reuters estimated at around 1.33 million tonnes based on provincial reports and sources.
There are 10 fewer mills working this season due mainly to a lack of cane, according to provincial media and source reports.
The state owns all the mills.
Officials have said improved harvesting and milling will nevertheless result in similar tonnage.
Traders told Reuters that the official estimate for this year’s harvest was 1.3 million tonnes, of which 400,000 tonnes goes to China under a toll agreement and another 700,000 tonnes are consumed locally.
The current crop has suffered from a lack of inputs or late delivery of what there was as Cuba grappled with a financial crisis that forced steep cuts in imports and disrupted deliveries this year.