Coffee is Missing From Cuba’s Ration Stores Due to Shipping Company Problems, Authorities Explain

People buying in a Cuban ration store that sells the ’standardized family basket’. (14ymedio, Archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 23 January 2022 — Cubans haven’t finished with one disappointment before facing another: coffee sold in the ration stores (called bodegas in Cuba) has not yet appeared in those markets in the month of January. The product has been missing from the bodegas due to “existing difficulties with the shipping companies,” the Government justified on Saturday.

The Business Group of the Agri-Food Industry stressed on its social networks that the coffee in the family basket “presents distribution problems in the months of December and January,” due to the fact that part of the product must be imported from other countries, after the drop in ground coffee from the national harvest.

However, the official message specifies that even when “national production” was met, a plan that is adjusted downwards each year in order to achieve it, “there is a level that is ensured with imported coffee, but that has not arrived in the country due to existing difficulties with the shipping companies.”

Cuba’s annual coffee production was 60,000 tons in 1959, it has plummeted since then to below 6,000 tons a year.

The instability in the distribution of the product has been a persistent problem, increasing the outrage among consumers, especially after the official announcements of an upcoming sale of coffee which has not actually materialized in the bodegas that distribute the standardized basic basket.

This is how it came to be that, in the second week of January, a shop assistant on Calle E between 23 and 21, in Havana’s El Vedado, chose to put up two large signs with the phrase: “There is no coffee,” tired of repeating it with her voice to every customer who comes in asking about the product, while she has no idea when it will be available.

“I put up the posters so that people would be warned,” the state employee said with annoyance, while recalling that the capital’s official press published, at the beginning of the year, an announcement saying that the distribution of coffee through the ration book corresponding to January was imminent.

Despite this scenario, the Agri-food Industry assured that “the industrial processing of coffee” has already concluded and “work is being done on the distribution of the remaining territories before the end of January” without specifying whether the product that has already been processed contains one hundred percent domestic raw material.

The Cuba-Café Company had warned in December of delays in the arrival of imports and in the deliveries from the businesses that process the beans, which harmed “the retail distribution of blended coffee for the family basket” in that month. [’Blended’ coffee refers to the fact that the beans are often mixed with other material, such as dried peas.]

And not only is there a delay in the distribution of coffee, milk for people on medical diets is still missing. As justified by the company, “its delivery has not been possible due to the lack of financing to insure it.”

Since last September, the Ministry of the Food Industry announced that due to the “delay in arrivals” of powdered milk, people who had been assigned a medical diet would not be included in the distribution.

The only alternative that affected people have, said the agency, is to depend on the “availability” of other products derived from soybeans that are sold freely, an option developed, they say, in consulttion with “specialists from the Ministry of Public Health.”

The cuts in delivery, the Government reported then, would continue in the month of October, after clarifying that children are the priority in the delivery of the precious food, but the truth is that people with medical diets have already gone almost half a year without milk.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.