Cuban sugar harvest falters; foreign investment sought
* Harvest 20 pct behind schedule; rain largely to blame
* Brazilian company manages one mill, others on the block
By Marc Frank
HAVANA, March 4 (Reuters) - For the third consecutive year Cuba's reorganized sugar industry is failing to perform up to expectations, increasing pressure on the government to open up the once proud sector to foreign investment.
Already one mill, the first since the industry was nationalized soon after the 1959 revolution, is under foreign management, with at least seven others on the auction block.
AZCUBA, the state-run holding company that replaced the Sugar Ministry three years ago, announced plans to produce 1.8 million tonnes of raw sugar this season, 18 percent more than last season's 1.6 million tonnes.
But the harvest is 20 percent behind schedule, sugar reporter Juan Varela Perez wrote recently in Granma, the Communist Party daily.
"Continuous and heavy rainfall in almost all provinces of the country has affected the harvest since January," state-run Radio Rebelde said late last week, reporting on a meeting of AZCUBA executives at the end of February.
"To this has been added the habitual problems of inputs arriving late, disorganization and the poor quality and slowness of repairs," the report said. Continuación...