Sugar production, a very important supporter of Cuba’s economy, is in deep trouble. Production targets will not be met. Senior government officials have been dismissed and replaced.
Official reports from Cuba announced that less than 25% of the mills grinding sugar cane have met production targets and that by the end of May there may be a deficit of 850,000 tonnes.
The plan for this year was to achieve 1.3 million tons of sugar; however the goal will not be reached because the refineries produced at 60% capacity and the efficiency was much lower than in previous years.
The situation puts Cuba in a difficult position because the entire planned production is needed to supply local consumption of about 700,000 tons, and to fulfill export demands of another 400,000 tonnes already committed with China.
The Cuban leadership blames the disaster on the direction of the Sugar Ministry stating that "they deluded themselves and deceived the country," by reversing the gains in efficiency and production achieved by the previous minister between 2005 and 2008.
The news come just two days after the announcement that Cuban President Raúl Castro fired Luis Avila, the Minister of Sugar and Jorge Sierra Cruz, Deputy President, also in charge of the Ministry of Transport.
The reasons for the dismissal of the high ranking government officials were summarized as “mistakes in carrying out his duties" in the case of Jorge Sierra, and "He requested his release while recognizing his deficiency for the task assigned", referring to Luis Avila.
"The comrades Jorge Sierra Cruz and Luis Avila González will be assigned to different duties” said the note from the State Council read in an official TV broadcast.
The vice-presidential vacancy will be filled by Antonio Lusson Batlle, member of the Communist Party’s Central Committee, Commander of the Revolution and Major General of the Armed Forces. Until now Lusson had been in charge of the country's railway system. The Ministry of Transport will be headed by César Arocha, also from the Army, currently Director of Bulk Food distribution.
Finally, Celso García was named the new minister of sugar. García, a chemical engineer, who was the first deputy minister of that department, has been connected to the sugar industry for over 30 years.
In the 1950s Cuba supplied about 35% of the world's export market. By the the year 2000 Cuba's sugar production had declined to lesss than 10% due to several factors, including a drop in the global commodity price making Cuba's sugar less competitive in world markets.