Hurricane Sandy has decimated the Cuban coffee crop after it plowed through the eastern part of the country last week. Reports say Sandy destroyed between 20 and 30 percent of the crop, inflicted extensive damage on processing centers and road networks
According to Reuters, this season's coffee crop yield was projected at about 5,300 tonnes of semi-processed seeds, compared to 7,100 tonnes in the 2011 season. But with the damage inflicted by Sandy when it swept through the Sierra Maestra Mountains where 92 percent of Cuban coffee is produced, the output is expect to be below 4,000 tonnes.
This is the worst harvest tonnage in more than a century.
Reuters reports that the official Cuban Granma newspaper says the Guantanamo province, the country's second large producer of the crop after Santiago de Cuba, has lost "174,475 cans of beans" and "47 processing centers were damaged" (525 cans equals one tonne). Extensive damage to crop fields in the eastern provinces of Granma and Holguin, the country's third and fourth largest producing provinces respectively, was also reported.
Santiago de Cuba, the biggest coffee producing province in Cuba, was worst hit. Reuters reports that the Sierra Maestra newspaper, says:
"[In the] Songo-La Maya.. municipality... a loss of 84,000 can [was reported], while 4,500 hectares of plantations and another 650 in development are damaged due to the trees that fell on them."
Given the extensive damage to coffee fields, it is unclear how much of the remaining crop can still be harvested and processed before they are lost to over-ripening in the fields.
Reuters reports that the Cuban President Raul Castro renewed efforts at revamping the coffee production industry after he came to office. Millions of dollars have been invested in re-cultivating 74,000 hectares (183,000 acres) of farmland that have fallowed in the past decades.
At the time of the revolution in 1959, Cuba's coffee plantations were producing an estimated 60,000 tonnes of coffee annually, but the tonnage declined after the revolution and Cuba reportedly imported 18,000 tonnes of semi-processed beans from Vietnam at a cost of $38 million in 2010.
Reuters reports that the Cuban coffee harvest that peaks in October and November, runs from September through January. This season's crop was damaged just when it was ripe for harvest.