The government of Cuba announced yesterday that it will permanently close the island’s Ministry of Sugar as part of larger-scale reforms designed to modernize Cuba’s economy and increase efficiency. According to a statement in the official state newspaper, Granma, the ministry “currently serves no state function” and will be replaced by a holding company called Grupo Empresarial de la Agroindustria Azucarera that will manage Cuba’s future sugar exports.
Sugarcane is one of Cuba’s most iconic products and the island was in the 1970s the world’s largest exporter. Years of inefficient management and declining production, however, have reduced the commodity’s importance to the overall economy. Still, the ministry’s closure is yet another symbolic change in a country that has recently begun overhauling its domestic economy. Earlier this week news surfaced that new and used car sales will soon be permitted across the island for the first time since 1959.
There is no word on who will run the new sugar industry management company or whether Cuba will seek any type of foreign investment in the sector. Despite limited details, the move is consistent with recent Cuban government statements stressing the need to decentralize decision-making in state owned enterprises and cut subsidies to inefficient industries.