Exclusive: Cuba opens sugar sector to foreign management

Wed Nov 7, 2012 11:22am EST
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By Rosa Tania Valdés and Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) - Brazilian builder Odebrecht SA ODBES.UL will begin administrating a Cuban sugar mill next week in the first sign the industry is ready to accept foreign participation since the 1959 revolution, two company sources said on Wednesday.

Odebrecht subsidiary, Compañía de Obras en Infraestructura (COI), is expected to sign the agreement with state-run sugar monopoly AZCUBA on Friday, according to the company sources and two diplomatic sources.

COI has been working in Cuba for a number of years building new port facilities at Mariel Bay, just west of Havana.

"Under the agreement we will manage the mill for 13 years, upgrade it and bring in new machinery for the harvest and cane transportation," said one of the Odebrecht sources, who is an executive involved in the project.

"We start next week for this harvest that begins in December," he said.

More than 170 million metric tonnes of sugar were produced worldwide in 2011. Cuba accounted for 1.4 million tonnes, or less than one percent.

Talks between potential sugar investors and the government have come and gone for years with few results.

At least three other companies are negotiating management agreements, according to two different company representatives.   Continued...