Friday, August 21, 2015

Food Shortages Are Getting Much Worse

Food Shortages Are Getting Much Worse / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez
Posted on August 20, 2015

14ymedio, Rosa Lopez, Havana, 19 August 2015 – She boasts that she
"walks all over Havana" and there isn't a single store, market or point
of sale she doesn't know about. "I have a family to feed and for years
I've also taken advantage of my walks to tell the neighbors where they
can get something," sais Maria Eugenia, 58, who these days never stops
repeating, "everything is bare." The food shortage has gotten worse in
recent weeks and the situation has reached crisis levels in many places.

"There is no chicken, no chopped soy-meat, no sausages, and never mind
meat," details this stubborn housewife. The refrigerators in the stores
of the Cuban capital have hardly any merchandise and in many cases the
cooling system has even been turned off, to avoid wasting electricity.
"People don't know what is happening, because they don't explain it on
television," the lady complains.

Few markets are spared the deficit in products. Ultra, a store in the
heart of Central Havana, is one of the most affected. "It's been days
with no supply of chicken and when it comes it's very little, people
have even come to blows the get a package," an employee who preferred to
remain anonymous explained to 14ymedio. On Tuesday, a sign proudly
announced, "We have butter," but there was nothing else to see in the
windows of the meat and freezer departments.

If they would at least carry hot dogs," a woman with her baby pleaded,
looking over the empty shelves. The frustrated customer was talking
about the chicken sausages imported from the United States, Canada or
Brazil, one of the food products in greatest demand among the Cuban
population, given its low price and the number of hot dogs included in
each package.

The last week dozens of telephone calls crossed the city to let family
and friends know that "sliced mortadella is available" in the store at
San Lazaro and Infanta. The message was brief and accompanied by a
"hurry, before it runs out." Two hours after the product processed by
the Canadian firm Golden Maple was put on sale, this newspaper was able
to confirm that it had run out.

"There's no powdered milk anywhere," bellowed a young man outside the
Carlos III Plaza Monday morning. With a mother who had recently suffered
a hip fracture, he shouted, "I must get milk," perhaps hoping to reach
the ears of any underground seller passing through the area.

There is a particular shortage of products from the United States. The
import figures from that country have plummeted in the last year. If in
the first quarter of 2014 the island imported $160 million in food from
the US, in 2015 that figure has barely reached $83 million, according to

The effects of this decline are visible in the shops. "Every day it is
more difficult to cook and give food to the children," says Yanisbel, a
34-year-old mother of two, one of which is gluten intolerant. The woman
was surprised that, "with all the contact we have now with the yumas
(Americans) we're no longer seeing the products that used to come from
that country." As an example he mentions frozen chicken, ground
soy-meat, various kinds of tomato sauce.

The lack of liquidity to pay cash in advance for purchases from the U.S.
has dented what seemed to be a growing trade. Moreover, the Cuban
government's poor credit history and unpaid debts does not favor the
search for new suppliers.

The drop in imports cannot be made up for by a rebound in domestic
products. "There is no significant increase in the production of food,"
says the economist Karina Galvez. A reality that contradicts Point 184
of the Political and Social Economy Guidelines that urge, "the
replacement of imports with foods that can be efficiently produced in
the country."

During the last session of Parliament, Marino Murillo Jorge, Minister of
Economy and Planning, confirmed missed production targets, among them
the delivery of fresh milk to the industry, which fell 13 million liters

With regards to the shortages of products in the hard currency stores,
the official attributed it to the late arrival of imports and announced
a set of provisions to better serve that market. More than a month
later, the effects of these measures haven't been felt on the plates of

Source: Food Shortages Are Getting Much Worse / 14ymedio, Rosa Lopez |
Translating Cuba -

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