Another Year, Another Shortage of Ration Books in Cuba

Sign in a Cuban store saying that they won’t be issuing new ration books. (Facebook/Jonatan López)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya and Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana, 29 December 2022 — “Customers please be aware that in January we will be using the same ration book as 2022. So please look after it!” Messages like this one, written hurriedly on a scrap of cardboard and stuck carelessly onto the shop door, have been appearing in numerous stores in Cuba over the past week.

These are the only sign of something that’s about to happen yet again: that they haven’t printed the new ration books that normally would get issued in December, for use from January onwards.

The ministry of Interior Commerce confirmed this on Thursday on its Facebook page. In the announcement, in which it also assures that “the distribution of already established family hampers for January is guaranteed”, they inform that “there are some changes to the usual timely distribution of ration books for 2023, because in six provinces, and, partially in another three, their production has not yet been completed”.

Because of this, the text continues, “food products corresponding to the January quota will temporarily be recorded in the 2022 book, for which a procedure has been sent out”.

This newspaper has established, by telephoning a number of grocery stores, that this is happening in Havana — in the Central, Cerro and Revolution Square districts. “There are problems in getting hold of next year’s books and people are going to have to continue to use this year’s”, they explain over the phone, “most likely beyond January or February – there’s no date yet”.

The only district that appears to be free of the problem is Luyanó, where, despite the scarcity, and all the general problems associated with buying from state shops, they have actually received the ration books.

Beyond the capital, there is a shortage reported in Sancti Spiritus. There, the stores are recording January orders in the old books.

The fact that there’s a lack of these things — things which have been a daily norm ever since rationing started in 1962 — isn’t new. It was exactly the same last year.

A statement from the Ministry of Internal Commerce later clarified that there were “delays in the importation of basic printing materials”, which delayed the “production and distribution” of the document, which is essential for obtaining basic subsidised foodstuffs. In other words: they’d run out of paper.

One would read from this announcement that until they re-establish the distribution of these documents in the western and central districts, that they’ll have to keep using the 2022 ones. And to avoid confusion, it would be appropriate to “cross out things that have already been bought” before adding to the new ones in the space available “on the January and February pages” of 2022. This December, Cubans are feeling a bit… deja vu.

Translated by Ricardo Recluso 


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