09/04/13 - Reuters - Slim pickings in Cuba as coffee harvest begins
* Output seen at around 5,600 tonnes
* Plantations still recovering from Sandy
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, Sept 4 (Reuters) - The Cuban coffee harvest got underway in Cuba this week with plantations still recovering from Hurricane Sandy and plans for tonnage to weigh in at around 5,600 tonnes of semi-processed beans.
Reuters estimated 2012 output at less than 4,000 tonnes, the lowest in more than a century, after Sandy ripped through Eastern Cuba in October of last year, felling beans and the trees that shade them and setting back efforts to renovate plantations.
The harvest begins in September and ends in January, with most beans picked in October and November.
Cuba reports coffee in cans and tonnes, with 525 cans equal to a tonne of semi-processed beans.
Coffee is a preferred beverage on the Caribbean island where national consumption is 42 percent above the international average.
Cuba exports most of its coffee while importing some 18,000 tonnes annually from Vietnam.
"The coffee harvest began officially in Santiago de Cuba today ... during which it is forecast that it will reach 1.5 million cans (2,850 tonnes)," the official National Information Agency reported on Tuesday.
Santiago de Cuba accounts for around 50 percent of coffee output in the country.
The eastern provinces, Santiago and adjoining Granma and Guantanamo provinces, account for around 85 percent of coffee production.
A source in Guantanamo said plans called for picking 900,000 cans, or 1714 tonnes and Granma's provincial Communist Party paper said on Wednesday farmers would harvest 731 tonnes of semi-processed beans.
Plans are rarely met in Cuba.
Communist Cuba's 35,000 growers, in exchange for low-interest government credits and subsidized supplies, must sell all of their coffee to the state at prices that historically have been below what the beans fetch on the black market.
Local analysts said 10 to 20 percent of the crop was diverted, though recent increases in state prices may have lessened the flow.
The country's plantations, which at the time of the 1959 revolution produced 60,000 tonnes of coffee, have steadily declined ever since.
Cuban President Raul Castro, as part of his efforts to improve food production and cut massive imports, has pointed to coffee as a crop ripe for increased attention and growth.
The state has leased abandoned coffee plantations over the last few years to hundreds of individuals to grow coffee and has nearly tripled the price it pays farmers for their beans.
Cuban farmers are now growing coffee in the lowlands with the aim of both selling to the state and directly to consumers, according to local media.
Plans call for producing 22,000 tonnes in 2015 and eventually 28,000 to 30,000 tonnes a year, equal to levels in the 1970s, though the 2015 goal now seems out of reach.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Marguerita Choy)
((firstname.lastname@example.org)(+537-833-3145)(Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))
CUBA-L FAIR USE NOTICE
This server contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. We are making such material available in our efforts to advance understanding of Cuba's political, economic, human rights, international, cultural, educational, scientific, sports and historical issues, among others. We distribute the materials on the basis of a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107. The material is distributed without profit. The material should be used for information, research and educational purposes. For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/ uscode/17/107.shtml.