10/29/2012 10:31 am ET Updated Dec 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Decimates Cuban Coffee Crop

HAVANA, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Hurricane Sandy decimated the Cuban coffee crop and delivered a major setback to renovation of old plantations when it ripped through the eastern part of the country late last week, according to scattered media reports.

The storm left between 20 percent and 30 percent of the crop on the ground, damaged processing centers and roads and felled thousands of trees upon plantations as it pummeled the Sierra Maestra Mountains, where 92 percent of the crop is grown.

The coffee harvest runs from September through January, but peaks in October and November.

Coffee production was already expected to weigh in at some 5,300 tonnes of semiprocessed beans, compared with 7,100 tonnes in the previous season and an initial plan of 8,500 tonnes.

Reuters now estimates output will be below 4,000 tonnes, the lowest in more than a century.

The official Granma newspaper reported on Monday that Guantanamo province, the country's second producer after Santiago de Cuba, "lost 174,475 cans of beans" and "47 processing centers were damaged".

Cuba often reports coffee output in cans, with 525 cans equal to a tonne.

Still-to-be-quantified losses were also reported in the eastern provinces of Granma and Holguin, the country's third and fourth producers.

The devastation was far worse in Santiago, which took the brunt of the storm and where losses were still being tallied.

"Songo-La Maya is an agricultural municipality ... The initial figures for coffee, its main crop, indicate a loss of 84,000 cans, while 4,500 hectares of plantations and another 650 in development are damaged due to the trees that fell on them," the province's newspaper, Sierra Maestra, reported on Sunday.

There are eight coffee-producing municipalities in Santiago de Cuba.

The National Information Agency, reporting from the Cruce de los Banos municipality on Saturday, said: "Initial estimates by municipal authorities indicate more than 300 hectares of coffee plantations damaged by falling trees and dozens of tonnes of mature beans felled and washed away."

How much of the remaining and now quickly ripening coffee beans could be picked and processed, given the destruction Sandy left behind, was unclear.

Communist-run Cuba's 35,000 growers, in exchange for low-interest government credits and subsidized supplies, must sell all of their coffee to the state.

The country's plantations, which at the time of the 1959 revolution produced 60,000 tonnes of coffee, have steadily declined ever since.

Cuban President Raul Castro, as part of his efforts to improve food production and cut imports, has pointed to coffee as a crop ripe for increased attention and growth.

Cuba imported 18,000 tonnes of semi-processed beans from Vietnam in 2010 at a cost of $38 million, and slightly less in 2011, though no figures for that year are available.

The state has leased abandoned plantations over the last few years to hundreds of individuals to grow coffee and has nearly tripled the price it pays farmers for their beans.

Millions of dollars have been poured into replanting most of the country's 74,000 hectares (183,000 acres) of plantations, which have been neglected for decades, and improving processing facilities. (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Dale Hudson)



Hurricane Sandy

11/04/2012 12:26 AM EDT

PHOTO: A Marathon Wedding Proposal, Minus The Marathon

HuffPost's Katie Bindley reports:

Like all the competitors who trained for the 2012 NYC Marathon, Hannah Vahaba will not be running the race this year. But she also will never forget her moment at the finish line. After traveling in from Atlanta, Vahaba picked up a marriage proposal in Central Park on Saturday without having to traverse the 26.2-mile course.

"This is my fiance," said Vahaba, 31, who had tears running down her face as she stood in Central Park where the race would have ended, just moments after Martin O'Donoghue had proposed.

marriage proposal cancelled nyc marathon

Photo by Damon Scheleur

Read the full story here.

11/04/2012 12:25 AM EDT

Check Donation Lists

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11/03/2012 10:42 PM EDT

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HuffPost's Tim Stenovec reports:

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which killed at least 48 people in New York when it battered the Northeast last week, frustrated residents in this corner of South Brooklyn are coping without electricity, heat and running water.

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11/03/2012 10:18 PM EDT

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Huntington Patch reports:

At a massive food distribution event at Republic Airport in Farmingdale, Cuomo said power has been restored to 60 percent of the New York metropolitan area.

LIPA reported Saturday evening that 460,000 customers remained without power, down from more than 900,000 initially.

"I've warned the utility companies repeatedly they operate under a state charter, essentially," Cuomo said. "The utility companies are not happy with my warning and frankly, I don't care."

"The customers are not happy. The bill payers are not happy and the people without power are not happy," Cuomo said. "People are suffering. It is an issue of safety and if the utilities were not prepared we will hold them accountable."

Read the full story on Huntington Patch.

11/03/2012 9:38 PM EDT

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11/03/2012 8:50 PM EDT

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HuffPost's Bianca Bosker:

On Saturday, 27-year-old Kate Frasca was manning Con Edison’s Twitter account, @ConEdison, responding to customers’ frustrations, questions, praise and criticism at an average clip of one tweet every six minutes.

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11/03/2012 8:35 PM EDT

Estimate Says 600 Million Gallons Of Water Hit Mass Transit System


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11/03/2012 8:15 PM EDT

$12 Million Donated So Far To NYC Mayor's Fund For Recovery

@ MikeBloomberg :

If you would like to donate: visit So far $12 million has been contributed. 100% of funds go to #Recovery efforts.

11/03/2012 7:52 PM EDT

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@ usNWSgov :

Post #Sandy reminders: never touch a downed power line or anything touching one. Washing your hands prevents illness. #NWS #CDC

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Volunteers Arrive In Staten Island

@ NYCMayorsOffice :

Volunteers Descend on Staten Island Neighborhood