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Cuba uses biotechnology to revive coffee industry

Cuba uses biotechnology to revive coffee industry
English.news.cn 2012-07-11 13:41:36

HAVANA, July 10 (Xinhua) -- Cuban researchers are trying to revive the
nation's wilting coffee production by using bio-technology, an
industrial expert said.

A research project involving three institutions nationwide has made
headway in developing new coffee plant varieties with higher yields and
greater resistance to pests and diseases, said Jose Lacerra Espino, a
researcher of the Institute of Plant Biotechnology.

Scientists have obtained stronger new hybrids by crossing traditional
local varieties with coffee plants from Africa. It will not only
increase production but also rescue declining varieties, according to
Merardo Ferrer Vivas of the Jibacoa Agroforestry Station.

The next step is to plant about 3,000 coffee plants of the new hybrid in
the research station, before expanding the technology over the country,
Vivas said.

However, it remains uncertain whether the newly improved varieties will
help turn around Cuba's ailing coffee industry, which has fallen about
90 percent in recent years from its peak years in the 1960s.

The worst harvest in history registered in 2009 with just about 5,500
tons. The Cuban government had to spend 50 million U.S. dollars to
import 18,000 tons of coffee to meet domestic demand.

"Coffee production is a strategic issue for Cuba," Deputy Agriculture
Minister Ramon Frometa said at the First International Conference on
Coffee and Cocoa in June.

The main causes of the drop in coffee output include "the lack of
funding and resources, and bad decisions and practices that discouraged
planting," according to Agriculture Minister Gustavo Rodriguez Rollero.

The government has launched a development program to reverse the
deficit, with the hope that coffee can become a major export product by
2015, Rodriguez said.

The strategy includes a new system of prices to pay coffee growers and a
reorganization of plantations.

Authorities expect coffee output to reach 20,000 tons by 2015, and
eventually between 28,000 and 30,000 tons per year.

Cuban leader Raul Castro has said the country cannot afford the luxury
of spending nearly 50 million dollars on coffee imports.

http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/sci/2012-07/11/c_131708613.htm

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