Cuba was once king of the sugar industry – sugar production brought surges of wealth throughout the island and helped it become an architectural and technological gem.

But a recent announcement by the government that it was eliminating its Ministry of Sugar shows how far harvests of the symbolic crop have fallen since their heyday.

An article in Communist Party newspaper Granma says the ministry will be replaced by an entity called Grupo Empresarial de la Agroindustria Azucarera.

The goal is to "create a business system capable of turning its exports into hard currency to finance its own expenses." There was no mention of any private or foreign investment.

Granma says it was determined that the Sugar Ministry "currently serves no state function."

The paper said Thursday that the decision was announced at a Cabinet meeting over the weekend.

Cuba reported its lowest sugar harvest since 1905 last year and sacked its sugar minister.

The fall of the Soviet Union had a devastating effect on the Cuban sugar industry because it lost Soviet subsidies – the market change also had negative consequences.

Based on reporting by The Associated Press.

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