14ymedio, Havana, 29 April 2023 — Cubans over the age of 13 will no longer receive standard chicken meat, but rather picadillo and mortadella. The news, slipped into a report on the difficulties in supplying the basic family basket, adds that only the chicken “in the distribution” will be for minors 13 and under age and those who have a “medical diet.”
With the drop in imports of chicken to the island from the United States, and the increase in the price of the product in the international market, the direct impact on consumption could be seen coming since February, when the Cuban economist Pedro Monreal announced the the lowest import volume in the last five months.
After lamenting the serious “affects with fuel,” a situation that is already reaching critical levels at the cusp of summer, the general director of Merchandise Sales of the Ministry of Domestic Trade, Francisco Silva, explained that the sale of increasingly scarce rationed goods would start “partially” from this Saturday.
Food and supplies corresponding to May, said the manager, have been given priority in the processes of “port extraction and distribution.” Among the missing products in April, whose delivery the ministry expects to “complete” soon, are beans, peas and oil. The wait will be slightly longer for coffee, which will arrive at the bodegas [ration stores] in the first days of May, announced Silva, who made it clear that, for now, it is barely being produced, just like fruit compote.
There will be no change in prices, he promised, which will continue to be those approved by the organizers of the Ordering Task. Some vulnerable families in the country will receive a free food module, a measure that will be extended to all consumer centers in Holguín and Guantánamo.
In this last province in particular, one of the poorest in the country, the official press commented with concern on the growing shortage. An article published this Saturday in the newspaper Venceremos noted that the basic food basket should be a “first order task for the country’s leadership,” since it constitutes the only source of food for many families in the eastern region.
However, the article notes, the result was the absence of rice, sugar, oil, grains, coffee, salt, and other inputs that take time to arrive, if at all, to “the most distant bodegas” on the Island.” From 2022 to 2023 the arrival of these products has been very unstable,” it summarizes.
Asked about these problems by the Communist Party organ in Guantánamo, the national commercial director of the Wholesale Food Products Company, Ángel de la Cruz Vaquero, pointed out that there were other culprits for the delay: the suppliers and transporters, in addition, of course, the US ’blockade’ and even the ’lags’ caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
The case of Guantánamo, explained the national director, is particularly alarming, because “when the cargo arrives at the port of Santiago de Cuba, most of the eastern provinces are there, ready to collect their quotas,” while Guantánamo arrives late and after a lot of ” lost time.”
In the province itself, the “technological obsolescence of industries” is another point against local supply. Sugar production, the official explained, “is going through one of its worst moments, more cane is needed and there isn’t any.” The alternatives are to bring raw sugar from Las Tunas and Camagüey, but those provinces already have their own problems.
The most serious issue continues to be transportation, Vaquero stressed. In the midst of the fuel debacle and with the country almost paralyzed, the responsibility for transporting the available products falls into a diffuse limit: Is it the fault of the provincial Directorate of Transportation, or of the national managers, he asks himself.
Vaquero explained that the supplies are transported to different points on the island by sea, by train or by road, each one with “advantages and disadvantages.” The maritime route uses a well-worn floating generator, with a capacity of 300 tons of cargo, which must make a technical stopover in the vicinity of the Guantánamo Naval Base, where the US authorities must grant permission to enter the provincial port. Other times, maritime transport is hampered by weather conditions, which put “tons of expensively imported food” at risk.
As for the train, with “very damaged” wagons with a capacity of 60 tons, it often happens that the locomotive is missing because the province simply does not have one. In addition, the goods usually arrive battered by the journey and the “rubbing against the sides” of the wagon.
The difficulties of the first two routes mean that road transport is the most frequent and, since the crisis began, also the most affected. Getting a shipment of oil up to the most isolated areas of the Sierra – such as Baracoa, Maisí, Yateras and El Salvador – is almost impossible, since there is no fuel or trucks in good condition to make the trip.
Guantánamo has not been able to avoid the “lag” since June 2022 and the consequence has been the increasingly serious shortages in the state market. Vaquero does not share the voluntarism with which Cubadebate described the situation of the basic basket: “The idea that at the beginning of the month we will have everything in the warehouse for the moment is not sustainable,” he concluded.
*Translator’s note: The “Ordering Task” [Tarea Ordenamiento] is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy.
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