HAVANA – The Cuban government this week announced it plans to diversify its crops and stagger its plantings with the aim of reducing the damage from weather phenomena, and it added that the agricultural sector is recovering rapidly from the ravages brought a month ago by Tropical Storm Noel in the eastern part of the island.
Acting Agriculture Minister Maria del Carmen Perez told Cuban media Saturday that now “the main thing is to prepare the land and sow to shorten the lag in the winter plantings.”
Perez told the official daily Granma that equipment and resources had been allocated to quickly harvest crops such as bananas that were flooded and cannot stand the excess moisture brought by the storm, as well as other crops such as sweet potatoes so that farmers can replant what was lost after harvesting what they can salvage.
She said that farmers need “to increase the short-cycle crops,” adding that among the urgent tasks in the urban agriculture sector was moving the vegetable seedbeds to areas with better drainage to guarantee vegetable production for the yearend period.
Perez also said that now that there is an abundance of water in the ground this is the opportune time to increase the planting of rice on a small scale.
The rains and flooding associated with Tropical Storm Noel caused an estimated $500 million in losses in Cuba, as well as considerable damage to the road network, hydraulic installations, agriculture, housing and other sectors.
Sugar Minister Ulises Rosales del Toro, meanwhile, said that the 2007-2008 sugar harvest will get started Dec. 10 in a processing plant in the eastern province of Granma, the official AIN news agency reported.
Despite having more resources and greater availability of sugar cane, the last harvest brought in only 1.2 million tons, according to unofficial figures, even though production predictions had originally been for between 1.3 and 1.5 million tons of the crop.
In 2002, the sugar industry was restructured with the closing of almost 100 sugar mills and the reallocation of half the land area formerly dedicated to sugar cane to other crops. After the rise in sugar prices on the international market, the Cuban government decided to reopen some of the factories and increase the volume of cane produced for milling by 28%.