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Crisis in Cuba: power outages deepen and the sugar harvest was half of what was expected

Another black week has hit Cuba’s economic expectations. For the second consecutive day, it is expected that this Wednesday there will be an energy deficit of up to 20%, after a protest over blackouts in the east the day before.

In addition, on Wednesday, the Cuban state sugar group Azcuba announced that “it will not be able to meet its international commitments” after one of the worst harvests in the country’s history, which will mainly affect China.

The Director of Communications for Azcuba, Dionis Pérez, explained at a press conference that, however, “the delivery of sugar to all Cubans is guaranteed” (about 2.5 kilograms per month per person through the ration card in force since 1962).

Pérez did not provide figures to explain Azcuba’s productive situation, but the results of the 2021-2022 harvest had previously been reported in official media. In mid-May, Azcuba assured the official newspaper Granma that only 53% of its initial forecast had been produced.

Blackouts

On Tuesday night, according to videos broadcast on networks, several dozen students at the University of Camagüey demonstrated after hours – more than ten, according to some testimonies – of power cut.

The student protest took place at the Agramonte headquarters of the university’s central campus and dozens of scholarship students participated in it, according to the coincident accounts of different media. The complaints, which began around seven in the afternoon and lasted for several hours, focused on the lack of electricity and, consequently, of water, because the blackout also affected the pumping system for the cisterns of the student complex.

The Presidency of Cuba reported that on Wednesday a peak generation of 2,427 megawatts is expected, while the demand will reach 2,900 megawatts, so the expected deficit is 473 megawatts. The Electric Union (UNE) indicated that the cuts in the supply have been maintained throughout the early hours of this Wednesday and warned “that affectations to the service are forecast throughout the day and night today.”

He explained that there are currently breakdowns and maintenance tasks in various parts of the country: the Máximo Gómez and Diez de Octubre plants have two units each out of service due to breakage and there are four units of three other plants stopped for maintenance works.

The Cuban dictator, Miguel Díaz-Canel, in a meeting with the governors of the entire country, said that “the blackouts will continue in the coming days,” as reported by the official newspaper Cubadebate. He explained that the cuts in the supply are due to breakages in the plants, the fuel deficit for distributed generation and the maintenance that is being carried out to enter the summer in a better situation.

The president recently acknowledged that the situation of the national electricity system was “tense” and advanced that “difficult days” lay ahead before the arrival of the hottest months of the year, those with the highest consumption.

Sugar, another sector in crisis

The Director of Communications for Azcuba, Dionis Pérez, admitted at the press conference that “the sector is in crisis” and mentioned the lack of fuel and fertilizers, the poor condition of the sugar mills where the raw material and machinery, as well as the delay in the start of the harvest and the rains.

“No plant started up in November,” Pérez said in a meeting with journalists at the headquarters of the business group to present an international congress on sugar and derivatives scheduled for June 20-24 in Havana.

He added that they registered 20 critical boilers, of the 89 that ground cane in the last conflict and “only 60% of the transport could be used due to lack of resources.”

He also considered the financial factor, among “the most influential due to the economic blockade of the United States”, in reference to the sanctions against Cuba.

Of the 35 sugar mills that participated in the harvest, which ended on May 20, only 3 fulfilled their production plan.

The sugar industry, a sector classified as “strategic” for the island’s economy, has been going through a crisis for several years with production reduced to just over a million tons.

In the 2020-2021 period, when 38 mills in the country ground the cane, only 66% of the planned plan of 1.2 million tons of sugar was reached.

Cuba had 156 operating factories in 1959, at the triumph of the revolution, which in that year produced 5.6 million tons of sugar and later rose to 8 million in the best harvests, between 1970 and 1989.

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José Martí
José Martí
Nacionalista cubano, poeta, filósofo, ensayista, periodista, traductor, profesor y editor.

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