The Restructuring of Cuba's Sugar Agroindustry: Impact on Rural Landscape and Communities


  • Jose Alvarez University of Florida
  • Jorge F. Pérez-López International Economic Consultant


Many of the world’s sugar-producing countries have implemented measures to restructure their industries. In 2002, Cuba announced that it intended to reduce capacity and increase efficiency by shutting down almost 50% of the country’s mills. More temporary closings were announced later. Most of the resulting studies have focused on those aspects. Very little attention has been given to the impact on rural landscape and communities. This paper focuses on three of the neglected issues: sugar production, agricultural diversification, and labor and community adjustments. The results are mixed. While capacity has been reduced and concentrated in the most efficient mills, sugar production has continued to decline. The worst impact has been felt in communities where sugar was the main industrial and agricultural activity. As a result of the closing of mills, most of the bateyes (the hub of life in sugar communities) have become ghost towns. Most of the over 100,000 displaced workers, however, have found alternative employment or are enrolled in technical or college careers without losing their salaries. The little information available indicates that the goals of the food diversification program are not being met despite the availability of an extra 1.3 million hectares of land previously planted to sugarcane. Finally, the Social Communication Program designed to facilitate community adjustment appears to have been forgotten. President Castro’s requiescat of March 2005 confirms that the restructuring process failed to achieve its goals.

Author Biographies

Jose Alvarez, University of Florida

Dr. José Alvarez is Adjunct and Emeritus Professor at the University of Florida's Everglades Research and Education Center. He has published extensively on different aspects of Cuba's agricultural sector, especially its sugar industry. He is a frequent professional traveler to the island. He is an active member of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE) and was a Board member for two terms.

Jorge F. Pérez-López, International Economic Consultant

Dr. Jorge F. Pérez-López is an international economist. He has published extensively on different aspects of the Cuban economy, including national income accounts, energy issues, the environment, foreign trade, investment, and the sugar industry. He is a past-president and Board member of the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy (ASCE)