Onaisys Fonticoba Gener
Like the rum elaboration process -solemn and patient-, the 5th International Scientific and Technical Colloquium of Light Rum was held during three days, in Havana. From May 24th to 26th, 200 national delegates and people from other 10 countries met to discuss issues related to the production, marketing and promotion of Cuban rum, both inside and outside the island.
According to the president of the Cuba Ron Corporation and Havana Club International, Juan González Escalona, the Colloquium was full of moments of reflection and exchange on the enormous creative work needed to fulfill what the country demands of that industry: "to increase export incomes, to improve its structural quality, to reach more add value in order to enrich its exportable and national supply, and to project more strongly towards a future that is now located, in economic and commercial terms, beyond 2020".
During his opening speech, he said that the company's exports are supposed to reach revenues of $ 125 million this year, with 3.5 million nine-liter cases; while in 2020, it is expected to reach 4.3 million cases and revenues of 157 million dollars.
"Maestros, tradition and work -he said- teach us how to maintain and develop the ability to elaborate the best rum in the world. We must continue defending that competitive advantage and bring it to the consumer culture. They also teach us how to protect and develop our brands, our production secrets and our knowhow. We have the duty of transforming it into real incomes for our development. That is why we need a long-term vision and very firm steps".
In that regard, it is worth noting that a large part of the program of the Colloquium was dedicated to the projections of the rum industry until 2030, when it is expected to export 10 million cases of rum. Currently, these levels remain close to four million, amount which should increase to six by 2020.
According to Carlos Rafael Soto, First Vice President of Cuba Ron, the premises which guide this process are satisfying domestic consumption; expanding exports to other markets; guaranteeing their quality; increasing the portfolio of business opportunities; finding new forms of financing; fostering research, development and innovation; and expanding aging and cooperage facilities.
He explained that the investment program planned for the next years includes the acquisition of water desalination plants, the design of new products, a waste treatment plant in Santa Cruz del Norte rum factory, and the repair of laboratory equipment and incorporation of new analysis technologies.
About energy, he said it is expected to install new photovoltaic farms, increase the vehicle fleet and recover cooling systems and energy blocks. In terms of efficiency and industrial maintenance, the plans include the repair and expansion of aging cellars, repair and remodeling of distilleries, construction of new cellars for the storage of resources, replacement of equipment and extension of the lines of bottling, as well as the acquisition of new packaging.
Besides the advances in the computerization of its systems, Cuba Ron is involved in negotiation processes to create a joint enterprise with the rum brands Santiago de Cuba, Cubay and Perla del Norte. According to its first vice president, this new entity will be in charge of the national and international marketing of these beverages. He explained that the investment program for the next 15 years is close to 245 million currency units, including 145 million CUC.
The lectures given during the second day of the Colloquium were also outstanding. After a detailed tour across the myths and legends of Havana -which were originated in the bars and canteens of that city-, leaded by the journalist and researcher Ciro Bianchi, the participants learned about the realities and perspectives of a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) for rums from the three regions of production on the Island.
This nomenclature has been recognized due to the natural factors, the cultural heritage of the Cuban Rum Maestros and the demanding control over the productive process, elements which add a singularity to the product from every region that make it unique among the others. For brands that are commercialized under that name, it represents an added value, in addition to guaranteeing its consumers the quality and high standards of the drink.
However, the First Cuban Rum Maestro Dr. Juan Carlos González said those are the same elements that differentiate Cuban rum from others elaborated in other countries and enable to identify the flavors from one or another region. So, a PDO by region is possible.
The future of the industry associated with the packaging of spirits was also addressed at the meeting. Some advanced projects were mentioned, which are focused on expanding the productive capabilities of those goods and replacing imports.
According to the Director of Packaging of the Ministry of Industries, Juana Iris Herrero, they are currently working on the modernization and expansion of capabilities in the joint enterprise Compacto Caribe -for the production of corrugated boxes- in a plant for the benefit and reuse of glass containers, increasing capabilities for the production of plastic and metal caps for bottles of rum, and marketing of printed flexible material, among other projects.
The last day, participants at the 5th Colloquium could enjoy a tour to the rum factories in Santa Cruz del Norte –the exclusive producer of the Havana Club Añejo Blanco and the largest factory in the country- and San José de las Lajas, which produces the dark rums of Havana Club. Although both factories use traditional methods for the production of rum, it should be noted that in San José the usual "knowhow" is combined with the newest technologies.
The first factory, founded on an old distillery, built in 1919, is currently immersed in a strong investment process –which must last until 2021- covering its infrastructure, human capital and technologies. On the other hand, the second one was created in 2007 and is considered "the new home of the ancient rum". With 23 hectares, it has six aging cellars with enough bases to ensure a growing production until 2032.
Other important moments of the Colloquium were the opening ceremony, at the “Gran Teatro de La Habana Alicia Alonso" -starring the Litz Alfonso Company- and the presentation of the communitarian project of Barrio Harlem, in the town of Santa Cruz.
Specialists, researchers, rum Maestros and other workers related to the rum industry will continue the noble office of maintaining the flavor of the Cuban traditions, until next International Scientific and Technical Colloquium of Light Rum. Then, they will meet again to discuss the routes that will guide the destiny of rum in Cuba.