“We had to act or face ruin.” These were the dramatic words used by Cuban president Fidel Castro when speaking to ten thousand sugar industry workers outside Havana

Forging ahead with plans to reduce the country’s sugar milling capacity by 50% (see just-food.com 19 June 2002), Cuban officials have announced the details of a speech by Fidel Castro.

Out of 156 operating sugar mills, 71 will continue in operation, 14 will be dedicated to molasses production and 71 will be shut down.

The province of Villa Clara will lose the most mills (15) followed by Matanzas (13) and La Habana (ten). Some 100,000 Cubans will lose their jobs. The government is paying for 60,000 workers to learn new jobs, and the other 40,000 will find employment in other agricultural enterprises, it is hoped.

Former sugar lands will be used to grow vianda (vegetables and root crops), raise cattle and non-traditional crops.

According to Castro, next year’s sugar crop will be about 3.6 million tons, about the same as in recent years, but using fewer mills and less cane.

Castro argued that the restructuring is necessary given rising petroleum prices and stagnant sugar prices of about five cents per pound.

Seven of the de-commissioned mills will become museums for tourists. Hopefully, the Cubans have done market research to predict the probability that tourists (many of whom will soon come from America) will be interested in the history of agricultural manufacturing more than sun, surf and Cuba Libres.