Overcoming the objections of Fidel Castro, the Cuban government is beginning to consider large-scale ethanol production on the sugarcane-rich island, a Brazilian official said.
Investment opportunities for Brazilian companies in ethanol production in Cuba are about to open up, said Foreign Ministry spokesman Tovar Nunes after a visit of Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota to Cuba in January, according Folha de S√£o Paulo.
“Fidel’s resistance in this field is being overcome,” Nunes said.
The historical leader of the Revolution, forced by illness to leave the presidency in 2006, has repeatedly warned in his columns that crop-based ethanol puts pressure on food production and food prices, thus hurting the poor. Supporting Fidel’s criticism, Venezuela and the ALBA bloc have so far abstained from promoting ethanol production.
Cuba could manufacture close to 2 billion gallons of ethanol per year, according to Jorge Hern√°ndez Fonseca, a Cuban-born researcher with the¬†Universidade do Estado do Par√° in Brazil. This would make Cuba the world’s third-largest ethanol producer after Brazil and the United States.
Cuba’s sugar industry has undergone a massive restructuring since 2004, with closings of more than half the country’s sugar mills and reduction of sugarcane cultivation. As part of the restructuring, the government has touted production of sugarcane byproducts, with the exception of fuel ethanol. Even so, it quietly modernized existing “alcohol” production facilities in 2006 and 2007.
Thanks to more than three decades of massive sugarcane ethanol production,¬†Brazil-based companies are world leaders in that field. Expanding beyond their domestic market, Brazilian businesses have invested in ethanol production in Caribbean and Central American countries over the past five years.
President Dilma Rousseff is scheduled to visit Cuba Jan. 31, accompanied by a large business delegation.