Saturday, March 8, 2014

Untimely rains hit Cuban tobacco harvest

Ivet Gonzalez in IPS: Near the close of the harvest , local people in the Cuban municipality of San Juan y Martínez, which boasts the finest tobacco plantations in the world, are seeing their hopes of a plentiful season dashed by unexpected winter rains.

“It’s been a bad year, a rebellious one as we call it. There was a lot of rain, which rots the plants. Tobacco needs sun during the day and cold at night,” 67-year-old Dámaso Rodríguez, a worker on the Valle plantation in this municipality, 180 kilometres west of Havana, in the province of Pinar del Río, told IPS.

“We are late with the farm chores,” said Yamilé Venero, a young tobacco worker on the same plantation. “It’s not worth planting again,” added María Teresa Ventos, a 54-year-old woman who comes every season to string the tobacco leaves onto long poles for drying in this agricultural industry which is a source of temporary jobs for women.

Since November, when the season started, there has been too much rain in the province which was expected to supply 70 percent of the 26,400 tonnes of tobacco leaf forecast for the 2013-2014 harvest. San Juan y Martínez and the neighbouring municipality of San Luis were severely affected; between them they provide 86 percent of the tobacco for the prized and costly Havana cigars.

Local sources reported the loss of 813 hectares in Pinar del Río and partial damage in a further 1,000 hectares, out of the provincial plan for 15,000 hectares. Many farms had to uproot their tobacco plants and replant three times over. Tobacco is Cuba’s third export, after nickel and medical products...

Tobacco processing in Cuba, shot by Vgenecr, Wikimedia Commons, nder the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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