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Disastrous Cuban sugar harvest could mean an even larger Cuban migrant exodus

 A Cuban sugarcane cutter
AP
A Cuban sugarcane cutter

Cuba this week is reporting its worst sugarcane harvest in more than a century. It could exacerbate the island's economic crisis — and the flight of migrants to the U.S.

As a record number of Cuban migrants are showing up on the U.S. border and Florida coast this year to escape their island’s repression and economic crisis, there's now another reason to expect even more of them — and it’s about sugar.
Cuba this week is reporting its worst sugarcane harvest since 1905. The official communist regime newspaper Granma concedes the island reaped considerably less than half a million tons. That’s only about half of what officials had forecast — and it’s less than half of the sugarcane Cuba harvested last year.

Officials blame the result on shortages of the fertilizer and fuel that Cuba has to import, caused by its severe economic crisis. This year’s disastrous harvest will only add to that financial emergency, since sugar is still one of Cuba’s key exports.

That could accelerate the record wave of Cubans fleeing the island. More than 100,000 have arrived at the U.S. southern border since October. Hundreds more have tried to come to Florida by sea. They’re also escaping increased regime repression after unprecedented anti-government protests last year.

The Cuban Revolution once produced as much as 8 million tons of sugar annually.
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Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.