Cuba's Tourism Boom Is Causing Food Shortages
Privately-owned restaurants are gobbling up the country's vegetables
by Brenna Houck@EaterDetroit Dec 8, 2016, 12:30pm EST
The warming of relations between the United States government and Cuba
this year created a boom in tourism for the island country. Cruise
liners traveling from Miami began docking in Havana in May and the first
commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years landed in
the island nation on November 28. But not everyone is seeing the
benefits from a growing number of foreign visitors.
The New York Times reports that food in Cuba is becoming scarce and
expensive — in part due to the massive growth in tourism. In a country
where supplies were already scarce, Cubans are now seeing their onions,
green peppers, and avocados get gobbled up by privately-owned
restaurants catering to travelers.
State-run markets in recent weeks have reportedly been sold out of items
like tomatoes, lettuce, and pineapples while the more loosely regulated
co-op markets that sell to restaurants are well-stocked with vegetables,
herbs, and spices. "Almost all of our buyers are paladares [private
restaurants]," says co-op vendor Ruben Martínez. "They are the ones who
can afford to pay more for the quality."
The number of privately owned restaurants has grown sharply over the
last five years thanks to free market reforms ushered in during 2011.
Prior to that, restaurants were strictly state-owned and operated. Where
once there were only 100 restaurants there are now more than 1,600 on
Privately-owned operations are also experiencing barriers to purchasing
ingredients for menus. With no wholesale purveyors or bulk-buying
options in Cuba, everything must be purchased at market rate. It's
further complicated by the fact that the government doesn't recognize
private restaurants in a way that allows owners to import ingredients or
equipment from abroad.
According to the Times, the Cuban government has made moves to curb the
growth of Havana's restaurant industry by pausing the issuing of
licenses in the city, though some argue that doesn't resolve the real
problem. "It's true, the prices keep going up and up," says Laura
Fernandez, manager of the high-end restaurant El Cocinero. "But that's
not just the fault of the private sector. There is generally a lot of
chaos and disorder in the market."
Source: Cuba's Tourism Boom Is Causing Food Shortages - Eater -