By Marc Frank | Reuters
Hurricane Dennis spared the Cuban nickel, oil and tobacco industries as it roared across the island on Friday, but caused some damage to tourism and sugar and hit citrus and coffee hard, according to preliminary reports.
Power outages continued across much of the country on Monday, slowing economic activity, as damage to homes, social installations, warehouses and some factories was surveyed.
Dennis, a Category 4 storm, whipped and flooded coffee plantations in the mountains of eastern and central Cuba. Combined with the sea-surge, the storm destroyed some tourism installations as it churned up the southern coast from east to west.
Cuba’s most important resorts, located along the northern coast, and Havana where 50 percent of tourists visit, emerged intact, ensuring the Caribbean island’s biggest foreign exchange earner would continue with little interruption.
The storm then slammed full force into central-western Cuba and the country’s main citrus orchard, downing trees and ripening fruit and damaging processing facilities.
Official media said damage was extensive to Matanzas Province’s state-run Jaguey Grande orchard, just east of Havana, which accounts for around 50 percent of Cuba’s citrus crop and 70 to 80 percent of all citrus-related exports.
Most of the coming 250,000 tonne grapefruit harvest, which runs from August through December, appeared lost, with damage to a similar tonnage of oranges, slated for picking in 2006, unclear.
Israeli-based investors, operating through the Panama-based BM Group, have a 50 percent interest in the Heroes de Giron citrus plant at the orchard and provide financing for the crop.
Dennis ripped off sugar mill roofs and flooded some plantations, but damage to the industry appeared balanced by much needed moisture across most of the country.
A prolonged drought resulted in a record-low 1.3 million tonne raw sugar crop this year, with similar tonnage expected in 2006.
Cuba’s top export industry, unrefined nickel plus cobalt, located in southeastern Holguin province, was closed for a few hours as the storm passed, industry sources said, but was otherwise unaffected. Canada’s Sherritt International Corp. (S.TO: Quote, Profile, Research) has a major interest in the industry.
Oil and gas production located along the northwest coast, where Dennis emerged after moving diagonally across central-western Cuba, was shut down and experiencing power outages, but damage to installations was minimal.
Sherritt, and Canadian company Pebercan (PBC.TO: Quote, Profile, Research), are heavily involved in oil exploration and production in the area.