Latin American Network Information Center - LANIC
FBIS-LAT-96-033 Daily Report 14 Feb 1996 CARIBBEAN Cuba

Cuba's Castro Discusses Sugarcane Harvest

PA1602020496 Havana Cubavision Network in Spanish, 0130 GMT 14 Feb 96 PA1602020496 Havana Cubavision Network Spanish BFN [Speech by Cuban President Fidel Castro Ruz at the Candido Gonzalez Sugar Mill in the province of Camaguey on 12 February -- recorded]

[FBIS Translated Excerpt] Compatriots of Santa Cruz, Camaguey residents, neighbors of the Candido Gonzalez Sugar Mill: I am very pleased to share with you this day of joy, which is justified and well deserved, as the Candido Gonzalez Sugar Mill is the first one in the country to meet its sugar production goal. [passage omitted ]

We were fortunate to have fertilizers, not as much as we would have liked, but enough. For more than three years we lacked fertilizers for our sugarcane. We managed to obtain financial assistance. As the world saw our country resisting, countries began to have confidence in our efforts, in the advancements we were beginning to make. We received some financial aid to purchase fertilizers and herbicides, as well as raw material such as metals to make machinery parts and tires, or to buy what we could not produce here, or to import some spare parts.

In sum, we had to distribute our scarce resources in order to cover all our needs during the harvest. We wanted all our sugar mills operating; there is nothing worse than a paralyzed sugar mill, which is forced to stop operating due to lack of sugarcane. Labor and experience are wasted; the sugar mill deteriorates. That is why our objective this year is having as many sugar mills as possible working, and almost all sugar mills are operating right now. We had a minimum of resources available. Regardless of how much material a sugar mill can save, it needs steel and various spare parts. Simultaneously with the efforts conducted in agriculture, great efforts were also made in industries, in industrial investments. The country, the party, the government continued -- day after day -- all these efforts to recover our sugar production. This is not the only factor that will help us come out of the special period. We are working on many areas, fields, and activities. We are already planning to significantly lift rice production next year. A large part of the rice we consume is imported, and it is getting more expensive and scarce in the world. We will use the same procedure we are now using with sugarcane. In other words, we will obtain financial aid. Rice was also without the minimum resources, fertilizers, in addition to fuel, which as you know, is necessary for our agriculture.

We are working on other agricultural products as well. We are also working on coffee. As we manage to obtain more resources, we will continue advancing in recovering the production of our main products and will continue developing the country. Some areas have significantly developed.

Tourism, for example, is an area that has developed considerably, which gives us the resources we need. [passage omitted]

As I said, we followed up each month, each day. We had monthly meetings to see how much land was ready to plant, how much land we had sowed, or replanted, how much land had been cleaned [a guataca] and how much land had been weeded with the little herbicides we had. We wanted to increase production. Last year the sugar harvest ended in 3.3 million [?tons]. This year we plan to harvest 4.5 million tons of sugar, a 30 percent increase over last year. This is an important step forward, but it is only the beginning. We have to get ready for another jump forward in 1997 and another one in 1998 so the sugar industry will satisfy the needs of the national economy not only in volume but also in the price of sugar. You know very well that when a sugar mill takes 60 or 70 days to press the sugarcane, that sugar will be more expensive. That same work force would be necessary to press sugarcane for another 120, 130, or 150 days; therefore, sugar production will be much more expensive.

We managed to produce up to 7 million tons at the beginning of the special period. It dropped to 4 million or so, and then below that. It was necessary to stop that decline and start increasing production again. If there is something we know about, it is sugarcane and sugar. It is a very important product, although as I said, it is not the only one the country is developing. We are developing other areas, and we will continue to develop other areas as necessary in order to move forward. Nevertheless, it was necessary to increase sugar production first. That is why we have more sugarcane this year, that is why we have at least 30 percent more sugarcane. This was possible with work and because we fertilized part of the land. We were unable to fertilize the spring sugarcane that was planted, nor the cold season sugarcane [cana de frio]. Since we fell short in the cold season plan [plan de frio] for the reasons I explained earlier, we managed to get fertilizers to fertilize the cold season sugarcane.

Therefore, by next year, 1997, the cold season sugarcane will be fertilized sugarcane. As you know, with proper care, cold season sugarcane yields 30,000, 40,000, or 50,000 arrobas per caballeria when fertilized. [passage omitted]

There is no concern right now about the Haiti Sugar Mill, but nevertheless, the Candido Gonzalez Sugar Mill will be ready. ShouId there be any problem with the Haiti Sugar Mill, the Candido Gonzalez Sugar Mill will continue operating as long as necessary. [applause, shouts] I am telling you this so you will understand the importance and value of having a sugar mill meet its goal. The other sugar mills are now struggling to meet their goals throughout the country. We are still in February. Today is 12 February. We still have the rest of February, which has 29 days this year. We have one more day. We still have March, the month of higher yields. Then April. There are areas where the sugar harvest can be held in May, but many sugar mills will have finished in April, while some will finish in June. The harvest must continue.

Now that you will finish your work in a few days... [pauses] Supposedly, because as soon as another mill begins to work this one will stop, and if the other one works well, then everything is fine. There are reinforcements. Workers from this mill can give them a hand, and you can also help the Suarez Gallol Sugar Mill. Contrary to what happened here, there has been a problem at the Suarez Gallol because of the lack of experience of its workers. They are making a great effort and are doing a great job, but when this sugar mill stops reinforcements may be sent there. Qualified personnel from the Candido Gonzalez Sugar Mill will go to the Suarez Gallol Sugar Mill. The three mills can do the work. We cannot mix the sugarcane from there with the sugarcane of the south. We can mix the sugarcane from the Haiti Sugar Mill and the sugarcane from the Candido Gonzalez Sugar Mill, but not with the other.

We must seek solutions for each sugar mill, one by one. Some sugar mills have been fortunate to have a very good start from the beginning, without any problems. Others have had some problems. Even the Candido Gonzalez Sugar Mill had its problems during the initial days. The Suarez Gallol Sugar Mill had its own difficulties. The Haiti Sugar Mill had problems with an engine that was very important. The problem had to be resolved quickly.

When I talk to you about sugarcane, about planting and harvesting, those two activities must go hand in hand.

We are a bit delayed in the harvesting of cane. In the latest meeting held a few days ago, we emphasized the need to pay closer attention to the crops, to the preparation of the land, and to the weeding of the fields. That is very important because in each harvest we are really working on two harvests: The present harvest and next year's harvest, for which it is necessary for us to have available cane.

We should not devote our attention to the present sugar harvest only. We must also pay attention to coming harvests, because again we have to increase our sugar production by hundreds of millions, specifically between 600 million and 800 million, of arrobas of sugarcane. How can we do this? By planting and cultivating more. Each province knows what must be done.

One of the areas that must plant the most is this one. I am referring to the area of [words indistinct]. How many caballerias are there? [words indistinct]

We must once again recover the sugarcane levels we had in these lands, which are perfect for the cultivation of cane and which get a good amount of rain. We must recover the levels we used to have.

As Carlos said, we must recover our irrigation systems, which is a great effort, but that is not all. Imagine we had 4,000 sugarcane combines. You know it would be impossible today to do without the combines. It is impossible. Those men, who in the past stood in line before the sugarcane fields [words indistinct] somewhere else now. They are in Camaguey and Havana and other places because [passage indistinct].

We are pleased to say that this year we have turned 246 old combines into practically new rebuilt combines, the KTP2M combines. These new combines have efficient hydraulic systems. They have a much more powerful Cuban engine, the Taino Engine. We are closely following the performance of these engines. We have some of the cutters right here. We have KTP2M combines that have harvested 50,000 arrobas. Brazilians have told me about combines that have harvested up to 40,000 arrobas. We are implementing a program [words indistinct]. In addition to the 246 KTP2M combines, we have distributed nearly 1,100 new, powerful engines. These engines were purchased for the harvest. Many of the old combines with the powerful engines are cutting more than they used to, but we intend to [words indistinct]. Next year we hope to have 500 rebuilt KTP2M combines. We have 500 combines. That is the least we expect for this year and the next.

With approximately 2,000 combines, and not 4,000 combines, we hope to [words indistinct]. With the rains the machines get stuck more often. If the harvest is suspended one, two, or three days because of the rains, the time lost must be recovered by grinding over 80, 85, 90, or 100 percent of the cane. To achieve this we must have the equipment in each mill, not only to grind 80 percent, but to grind 100 percent, every time it is necessary to recover lost time. This requires a great effort with our equipment.

We have to refurbish our equipment through these methods, which are the most economical ones. To purchase one of those new combines could cost us as much as $100,000. We are now turning old combines into new ones with $25,000 and with Cuban components. I say $25,000 because that is more or less what we must spend to modernize, to adapt a modern, efficient hydraulic system so the engines are more powerful and so that the engine [passage indistinct]. We do not know how many trucks we save because 20-25 percent more sugarcane fits in one of those carts. There is a shortage of resources. We have to continue to work and to do things more rationally because there is a shortage of resources.

We have to modernize all our equipment by making it more efficient. We have to be more resourceful. Work is being done on that, and our companeros in the sugarcane sector and in the government are putting their heads together on that, but it is very encouraging to see solutions such as these, combines that can cut at least twice as much.

How much fuel would that save us if we harvested 6 or 7 million tons of sugar? How much money would we save? These machines have proven to us that they can work when the others stop because they have a more powerful engine and do a better, more even cut. We see advantages everywhere. We are going to be waging this battle during the special period. We are going to go ahead with many new, better things. That old combine, when we install a new machine and other things, is an excellent, new machine.

When a truck [words indistinct]. Do you know how many trucks we have that get 7 km per gallon? We have to modernize them but there are many parts of that truck that are useful and strong. We are going to be renovating all our equipment in the agriculture sector. We have to do the same thing in the rice sector as well as in other crops.

We have to make huge efforts to do the things that the historic circumstances demand from us at this time. It has been worthwhile to fight as we have fought, to resist as we have resisted, and to move on as we have been starting to move forward. We must first produce what we used to produce and do much more later. That is why this harvest has so much importance because all those who gave us financing for this harvest, when they see we are producing sugar, when they see we are meeting our goals, will give us the financing for the next harvest. We deliver sugar here and seek financing for next year there. A greater amount of financing is needed because these programs which I am talking about, including the machinery, require resources. We can obtain them if they trust us. This sugar mill's compliance with the harvest today has the same symbolic value. It is important that at the conclusion of the harvest we can say we have fulfilled our sugar production plans. That is why we cannot fail anywhere. We cannot be careless in any province. No sugarmill can be careless, and anytime a problem emerges, we must have a solution.

There are nearly 150 sugar mills in operation. The harvest is now at full speed. The days of more sugar production are forthcoming. We have estimated we will achieve a 1-percent increase in sugar yield. We are accomplishing this. The sugarcane is producing a sizable amount of sugar; we are getting more sugar at sugar mills. We are doing a good job and a great effort.

I don't want to tire you anymore. I just wanted you to have an idea about the significance of the task you have carried out; an idea of all that is done all over the country; and an idea about the need for everyone to do what you have done. Everyone should fulfill their objectives, the way you have.

In the sugar mills and in the fields, preparing the next harvest, we would be doing nothing by winning the battle this year and later experiencing a slowdown. We must continue to increase sugarcane production to the reasonable and decided-upon limit in order to produce a lot of sugar at low cost. The more sugar we produce with the sugar mills we have, the more workers in these sugar mills and the fields, the more we will get out of each machine, each piece of equipment, each dollar of fuel, each dollar of metal, each dollar in tires, each dollar in spare parts [passage indistinct] will help us achieve general efficiency in Cuba and win that confidence we so much need in order to mobilize resorces and be able to overcome the very difficult conditions we have sustained.

We can say we have a dignified people, with a glorious history, who have waged great struggles, with great merits.

When I travel on these roads I always think of and always remember those generations of Agramonte, Gomez, and Maceo, who fought so hard and traveled these same roads so many times. There was talk here of Candido, whom we loved dearly and whom we knew. Well, like Carlos said, this is the most honorable way to pay tribute to those who paid the highest sacrifice, those who fell.

When I arrived in this sugar mill and saw the big picture of Candido, I asked the driver to slow down and looked closely, remembering him and others. I wanted to know how similar the picture was to him, because I remember him as if I can still see him, as I am seeing any of you here in the front rows of this ceremony.

There is nothing like the sense of dignity and honor, and nothing like the sense of patriotism and the pride of men and women of a revolutionary people. There is nothing like the pride you have earned. There is nothing like the satisfaction of fulfilling one's responsibility. That is why I congratulate you and thank you for these moments of great satisfaction and inspiration we have all received, because comrades told me it would be good to present the banner; they said the comrades need incentives. But those of us on the other side also need incentives. [applause]

I thank you on behalf of us all for that incentive, and consequently [words indistinct] socialism or death, fatherland or death, we will win! [applause]