Havana – President Raul Castro has decided to abolish the Sugar Ministry - an emblematic institution of older brother Fidel's 1959 revolution - in favor of a body run more along business lines, Cuban Communist Party daily Granma said Thursday.
The sector that was once the motor of Cuba's economy will now be directed by the Sugar Agro-Industry Management Group.
The abolition of the ministry is part of a plan to make the sugar industry more nimble and "capable of generating with its exports freely convertible currency to finance its own costs," Raul Castro told Cabinet ministers at a meeting last weekend, according to Granma.
Fifty-six of Cuba's 61 remaining sugar mills are to remain in operation as assets of 13 provincial enterprises, the newspaper said.
"There is no country without sugar" was a byword in the decades following the 1959 Cuban Revolution, but last year's harvest, 1.1 million tons, was the worst in 105 years.
Raul Castro, who stepped in for the ailing Fidel in July 2006 and formally succeeded him in early 2008, wants to bring better management and new technology to the sugar industry and has entertained the idea of inviting foreign companies to invest in the sector.
Cuba substantially downsized the sugar industry in 2002-2004, closing 95 mills, eliminating more than 100,000 jobs and reducing the area planted with sugarcane from 2 million hectares (4.9 million acres) to around 750,000.
In his remarks at last weekend's Cabinet meeting, Raul Castro also addressed his broader project of "updating" the socialist economic model, stressing the need for care and deliberation in implementing changes, Granma said.