Saturday, May 31, 2008
It seems that sugar production has finally started to increase, something that has not happened since 2003, when the sugar industry decreased from 156 mills to 66 mills.
"HAVANA, May 26 (Reuters) - Cuba will meet domestic demand for refined and raw sugar this year, the official media said over the weekend, after importing 200,000 to 300,000 tonnes of low-grade refined sugar from Brazil and Colombia in recent years.
"Sugar Ministry specialists assured me all the raw sugar for the domestic economy, as well as refined, was secure, that it has already been produced," Cuba's top sugar reporter Juan Varela Perez said at the weekend on his regular radio spot."
So, yes, this is the government saying these things, so who knows if it's actually true. But assuming that it is true, this may mean good things for Cuba's future, economically speaking. The sugar industry has been getting a great deal of government attention of late. High sugar prices and soaring ethanol prices have made the sugar industry a great place to invest, and the government has actually paid attention and made some good decisions, which is a positive step.
Now, we should also note that Raul has been paying close attention to the agricultural sector (or rather, letting the central government NOT pay close attention to it), making it his principle place for any major reforms. One can see a significant (relatively speaking) decentralization in Cuba's agricultural sector, signifying that Raul understands that the central government's stranglehold on the economy does not benefit Cuba's industries, and more importantly to Raul, it does not benefit him.
A year down the line, if the sugar industry improves further, and other agricultural industries that have been partially decentralized also improve output and efficiency, Raul would be hard-pressed not to expand the decentralization outside the agricultural sector. Cubans are demanding economic change (yes, many are demanding far more than this as well) and they will soon see that decentralization is the key. If Raul sees his future tied to the contentedness of the Cuban people, as I think that he does, he will have to further loosen the government's iron clasp on the day-to-day affairs of the Cuban people.