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Irma severely damages Cuban sugar industry, crop - state media

HAVANA, Sept 11 (Reuters) - Hurricane Irma seriously damaged Cubas already dilapidated sugar industry and flooded and flattened an extensive area of sugar cane, state-run media reported on Monday.

Some 300,000 hectares (740,000 acres) of cane were affected to different degrees, Liobel Perez, spokesman for AZCUBA, the state sugar monopoly, was quoted as stating.

He said 40 percent of the countrys mills were also damaged, as were warehouses and other parts of the industrys infrastructure.

Despite a steep decline in output over the last 15 years, the industry remains one of the country's most important in terms of employment and export earnings.

The sugar harvest was scheduled to begin in November.

The monster storm spent three days traversing most of the islands northern coast, from east to west, with particular force in the sugar-producing provinces of central Cuba, before heading north to Florida on Sunday.

Officials have just begun to assess the damage, so the report was preliminary.

Cuba produced 1.8 million tonnes of sugar during the 2016-2017 season. (Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)