Forecasts for the sector indicate that through the introduction of better technology and enhanced plantation on the western, central and eastern plains to satisfy domestic demand and increase exports, Cuba will produce in excess of 23,000 tons of coffee by 2020.

Research undertaken under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture has led to the proposal to extend coffee growing to lower lands. To date, technicians have identified some 2,000 hectares in the provinces of Havana, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Matanzas, Camagüey, Ciego de Ávila and Las Tunas and in the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud.

Forecasts for the sector indicate that through the introduction of better technology and enhanced plantation on the western, central and eastern plains to satisfy domestic demand and increase exports, Cuba will produce in excess of 23,000 tons of coffee by 2020.According to Alexis Legrá, director of Coffee, Cacao and Coco at the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agroforestal Company Group, planned economic investment decisions for 2017 and beyond will be based on feasibility studies.

He added that new areas identified as being suitable for the cultivation of coffee will, in line with the individual characteristics of each locality, require the installation of modern irrigation systems and technology.

According to the specialist, the expansion strategy for the coming years envisages growth in output through the generalized use of advanced technologies and the phased introduction of new zones on theplains.

Legrá explained that the present average yield of about 0.14 tons per hectare is very low and it is hoped that it will have risen to 0.36 tons by 2020.

He said that older and damaged plants are being replaced by others of higher genetic quality in order to increase productivity, training courses are being provided for growers and entomophagous and entomopatogens programs are being undertaken to strengthen bacteriological battles, in particular against the drill, in which the so-called Mediterranean wasp is also used.

The expert added that even though some lands in the east suffered delays in their plans during 2015, 57 per cent of all coffee plantations in Cuba already have introduced such renovations or changes.

He assured that technical works are also advancing on the establishment of tree species to protect the plantations, the installation of the irrigation systems and soil enrichment on the basis of specific agri-chemical analysis.

The official explained that progress made included the creation of commercial centers to ensure that producers could have supplies to hand, enhanced rates of pay per unit for pickers and an increased supply of fertilizers, which in 2015 was the highest in the last 20 years.

According to Legrá, the national production drive for „100 or more hundredweight of golden coffee per hectare” had still not yielded satisfactory results with only 51 of the 309 entities incorporated reaching this target in the fifth year of the initiative.

He said for example that not one of the state farms, which were those with most potential, had complied with the projections.

Legrá told a press conference that although the 2016-2015 harvest did indeed surpass the plan, it amounted to only 5,687 tons of the grain, a figure far inferior to the national record.

Despite the slight increase, production levels still offer insufficient yields relative to the national demand and a tradition that in 1961 attained a harvest of about 60,000 tons of the bean and maintained a presence in 167,000 hectares; almost three times that of the area presently covered by coffee plantations.

Official estimates indicate that Cuba imports almost eight thousand tons of coffee at an approximate cost of 25 million dollars, meaning that the revitalization of domestic coffee production is a key element for both domestic and external trade.

International Coffee Organization reports calculate that the world harvest for 2015-16 will come in at around 143.4 million 60kg sacks, representing an increase of 1.4% on the previous year.

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