14ymedio, Havana, 13 March 2019 — Cuban authorities acknowledged on Wednesday the shortages of several staples such as eggs, chicken, cooking oil and flour while admitting the failure to meet their sugar production plans.
According to the official newspaper Granma, in the session of a meeting chaired by the first secretary of the Communist Party, Raúl Castro, with president Miguel Díaz-Canel was also present, the authorities acknowledged “that important production targets for the economy have failed.” All the heads of the Party and the Government at the municipal and provincial levels were present at the event.
In recent weeks the images of long lines and even fights to buy chicken, eggs and cooking oil have been repeated throughout the island; in some cases the scenes have come to light through social networks. Cuba imports between 60 and 70% of the food consumed on the island at an annual cost close to two billion dollars.
The Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil Fernandez explained that “egg production has not yet stabilized to the point where eggs can be released for unrationed purchase,” but noted that they have been able to distribute the regular allocations through the ration card by the which the government sells 10 subsidized eggs per person per month.
Gil Fernandez projected a growth in tourism of 9.2% compared to 2018, in spite of the cooling in the relations with the United States and the decrease of the number of American tourists visting the Island, about 40% less than in the previous year.
The official highlighted achievements in the period, including the arrival of 1,200 motor vehicles during 2018, among them 221 Chinese Yutong buses and 504 microbuses, of which 401 went have been dedicated to shared-ride fixed-route taxi service in Havana.
Julio García Pérez, president of the state-owned Grupo Empresarial Azcuba, which is responsible for the sugar harvest, said that “less cane has been milled than planned” and added that the production had been only 82% of the 1.5 million tons of sugar in the plan.
Among the reasons given by Garcia are “breakdowns and interruptions in the industry.” Most Cuban sugar mills have been in use for decades and have obsolete technology.
The official added that some “inefficient” plants have been paralyzed and cane is being sent to other mills to try to raise the figures for sugar production.
The island, once the largest sugar producer in the world, now harvests the same amount of sugar it produced more than a century ago. With an internal consumption of 700,000 tons, the country has had to import sugar from France to meet domestic demand and export commitments. Cuba has an agreement to sell China 400,000 tons of sugar each year. The country had planned to export some 920,000 tons of sugar this year, 50 percent more than in 2018 when production fell by 43.7 percent.
The drop in the sugarcane harvest affects the plans of the Government, which had foreseen a rebound in the production and exports of sugar that would help compensate for Cuba’s serious liquidity problem. After the deepening of the economic crisis in Venezuela, Cuba’s main ally, the island has seen oil shipments and investments from Venezuela dwindle.
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