HAVANA - The Cuban government is currently engaged in the process of reorganizing the country's declining sugar industry to restore its status as an important pillar of the national economy.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba's main trade partner, raw sugar production in the Caribbean country plummeted from 8 million tons in 1990 to only 1.1 million tons in 2009, the lowest level in a century.

This situation has forced the Cuban government to take new steps to revive the island's once most productive sector.

According to the Official Gazette this week, President Raul Castro has signed a decree to create a new government office, Azcuba, to replace the Ministry of Sugar to oversee the country's sugar production.

Azcuba comprises 25 provincial and service companies, including two research institutes on sugarcane and its derivatives and a national training center.

The decision to abolish the ministry, which failed to meet any state function, was taken in September during a meeting of the Council of Ministers headed by Castro, the official Granma daily said.

According to the special provisions, functions such as the control, protection and development of the land fund for sugarcane production were transferred to the Ministry of Agriculture.

The guidance and control of distributing sugarcane products and its derivatives were passed to the Ministry of Economy and Planning, while the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Foreign Investment received the order to direct and control the sector's policy and marketing strategy.

The government also promoted a program to modernize the century-old sugar industry, including replacing the ancient KTP combine harvesters of Soviet technology with more efficient Brazilian machines.

During a parliamentary session in August which analyzed the country's economic situation in the first half of 2011, Castro said his government managed to stop the decline in sugar production.

According to the government, it aims to increase sugar production by 20 percent to 1.4 million tons in the coming harvest, during which sugar mills nationwide will go into production throughout December 2011 to January 2012.

The country currently has 56 sugar refineries, 46 of which will grind during the next season, compared with 39 in the previous one.

According to experts, despite the dismantling of half of its sugar refineries, Cuba still has the capability to produce 4 million tons of sugar annually.

source: chinadaily


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