Coffee Exports Leave Cuban Consumers without their Daily Cup

Coffee exports have become a top priority in the Cuban government’s desperate search for hard currency, making it difficult to find in the island’s retail stores. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 12 October 2020 —  Coffee exports have become a top priority in the Cuban government’s desperate quest for hard currency. This has impacted the nation’s consumers, for whom coffee is nowhere to be found.

In the first quarter of this year Cubaexport, a government-owned corporation which sells Cuban food and beverage products on the international market, bought 702 tons from the coffee processing company Café Asdrubal Lopez de Guantanamo, the most it has produced in four years.

“I haven’t had my little cup of coffee for days. I can’t even find it at the religious centers. A neighbor had been selling it to me by the tablespoonful for three pesos, or twenty for the small can, but she hasn’t had any for over a month. And of course it wasn’t pure coffee,” said a resident of Santiago de Cuba who, like thousands of other Cubans, complains about the current shortage.

The Guantanamo-based processor will continue its sales of ground coffee, as well as cocoa, to overseas buyers until November. In an interview with the state-owned newspaper Venceremos, the company’s director, Osmel de la Cruz Cala, said that enough beans have already been delivered to the its processing plant to meet more than 80% of its production needs.

The director also stated that the company will be acquiring equipment that will allow it to to offer “roasted and ground coffee in different formats to high-end hotels before taking it to other countries.”

“Right now I have a very small amount of ground coffee that my niece bought at hard currency store. It comes from Spain. It’s outrageous that this is happening in a country that grows so much coffee. Hard to believe but true,” lamented the Santiago resident. She was referring to Bee Hive, a Spanish brand sold at her local hard currency stores.

At the beginning of September police in the province carried out a sting operation, seizing more than two tons of coffee, which were found in two state-owned trucks. On the same day, the local press announced the start of coffee season in the region, which is the nation’s largest producer.

It is projected that the country will produce 10,000 tons this year, slightly more than last year but well below the 60,000 tons produced in 1961, when Cuba was able to meet domestic consumer demand and export a surplus. The product is one of the great emblems of the island’s identity, along with rum and tobacco.

A ton of arabica beans, the kind grown in eastern Cuba, goes for $8,000 on the international market. According to published accounts in the official press, the government projected it would sell 10,000 tons in 2020.


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