For almost two centuries, Cuba was the world’s largest exporter of sugar. But in recent years, the industry has shrunk to a fraction of its former glory. CCTV correspondent Michael Voss reports.
Former Soviet President Nikita Krushchev offered to buy Cuba’s sugar on exclusive terms, and Fidel Castro launched an all-out effort to boost production. Castro sent out ten million tons and sent thousands of people to work in the field cutting the cane for harvest time. Cuba never reached its goal, but by the late 1980s, it had boosted production to a record eight million metric tons a year.
But when the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, Cuba could no longer sustain such a large sugar industry. The government laid off more than 100,000 people and converted more than a million hectares of cane fields to other crops. Today, just 56 mills remain in operations. All but eight of the island’s sugar refineries were built more than half a century ago, which leaves Cuba responsible for financing the rest. The government estimates that the industry needs roughly $10 million a year in investment compared to the $3 million it currently receives.