Cuba eliminates sugar ministry, ending an era

Cuba has eliminated its Ministry of Sugar, the emblem of an era when sugar was king in the Caribbean’s largest island, replacing it with a group of state enterprises charged with revitalizing the depressed industry, the Associated Press reports.

A cabinet meeting presided by President Raul Castro decided to “put an end to the Ministry of Sugar, which no longer fulfills functions of state,” the Communist Party newspaper Granma said.

Created in 1964, the ministry will be replaced by a group of agro-industrial enterprises to gain efficiency and “generate exports to finance its own costs,” the newspaper said.

The industry will be reorganized under 13 provincial enterprises, and the number of active sugar mills reduced from 61 to 56.

Plans call for increasing production 19 percent to 1.1 million tons of sugar in the next harvest, which runs from December to May.

For decades, the sugar industry was the foundation of the Cuban economy, with production reaching 8.2 million tons at the end of the 1980s, but it collapsed to one million tons a year after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

“It should not be forgotten that the sugar sector comprises a labor force that was one of the most revolutionary in the country in the time of capitalism,” Castro was quoted as reminding the ministers.

Castro has introduced a series of reforms of Cuba’s communist economy, allowing small scale private enterprises to foster growth and employment while scaling back the role of the state.

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