Cuba: Nickel again earned more than tourism in ’08

AP: HAVANA — Cuba produced 70,400 tons of nickel in 2008, helping the industry surpass tourism as the communist-run island’s top source of revenue for the second consecutive year, state media reported Monday.

The government news agency Prensa Latina said nickel “again achieved economic superiority over tourism,” but did not release reliable figures on how much the industry made.

Neither has the government released exact tourism revenue. But in 2008, the industry recorded a 9.3 percent growth in foreign visitors, setting a new tourist record and almost certainly generating more than the $2.2 billion it made in 2007.

Cuba is the world’s sixth-leading producer of nickel and cobalt. The government announced last year that for the first time, nickel had exceeded tourism as the island’s top economic driver. But it has never been entirely clear by how much nickel is outpacing the vacation industry.

Prensa Latina said nickel production remained strong in 2008, despite a drop in the metal’s international value from $53,000 per ton to $9,000 per ton due to the global financial crisis.

Nickel is an essential ingredient in stainless steel and in electronics, including computers, monitor screens and other appliances.

The U.S. embargo prohibits American companies from purchasing nickel and other Cuban products, but the island is an important supplier for China and Canada.

www.particularcuba.com

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