Unseasonal rainfall and the late arrival of winter are mostly to blame for the harm caused – principally to industrial sugar yields and cane gathering activities --to the 2015/16 Cuban sugar cane harvest.

Unseasonal rainfall and the late arrival of winter are mostly to blame for the harm caused – principally to industrial sugar yields and cane gathering activities --to the 2015/16 Cuban sugar cane harvest.Dionis Pérez, Director of Information, Communications and Analysis for the Azucarero Azcuba Group, told The Havana Reporter that Cuba had not been immune to the trail of anxiety and distress left by the El Niño phenomenon, because a prolonged drought followed by intensive and continuous downpours had lowered sugar production indicator results.

“We have had days when between 250 and 300 combine harvesters could not work due to waterlogged fields, which in turn resulted in lower quantities of cane for milling and a drop in production” he said.

According to the official, virtually all cane -- with a nationwide average index in excess of 90% -- in the country is now mechanically harvested. Some provinces such as Holguin in the east of Cuba and Matanzas in the west cut all their cane with machines.

“Macheteros” are presently only employed in Guantánamo and Granma in the east, where the use of machines is difficult in cane fields with uneven formations.

A number of modern Brazilian harvesters fitted with tracks and trailers with special tyres for working in rain soaked fields have been used in places for the past two years with positive results.

Nevertheless, the problem of roads in a poor state of repair remains and when flooded, the trucks carrying cane that use them, often become bogged down.

Perez explained that the added problem existed of cane coming in with earth and other materials that are difficult to extract in the context of complex working conditions.

Unseasonal rainfall and the late arrival of winter are mostly to blame for the harm caused – principally to industrial sugar yields and cane gathering activities --to the 2015/16 Cuban sugar cane harvest.Such objective difficulties, that resulted in a 30% time-loss to the industry during this campaign notwithstanding, the targeted potential Cane Output Efficiency yields (RPC in Spanish) for cane, once in the factory, have been attained.

Many of the 50 mills participating in this year’s harvest had to delay starting because of the complex conditions created by El Niño.

According to the Director, one of the strategies adopted to confront the consequences of the phenomenon is the prioritizing of the “direct fire” harvesting of cane crops within 20km of a plant, to reduce quality deterioration and ensure freshness.

He stressed that on dry days, a mill industry potential yield target of 76% exploitation had been met and surpassed.

The object now is not to let efficiency levels slide and to reach the maximum possible production in this harvest, a serious challenge of itself, whilst maintaining the trend of increased volumes obtained over the past five years.

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