Cuba Faces Shortages of Rationed Rice, Dried Beans, Cooking Oil, Sugar and Salt

Customers at a neighborhood store selling rationed foodstuffs.

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 22 February 2022 — On Tuesday, official press outlets acknowledged a serious shortage of “basic grains” and cooking oil, items sold through the country’s rationing system. In an attempt to soften the news, which comes as no surprise to Cuban consumers, Cubadebate blamed the situation on “late deliveries” and “import delays.”

The Ministry of Commerce also warned of delays in deliveries of rice to almost half the country, mainly in the provinces of Matanzas, Ciego de Avila, Las Tunas, Holguin, Santiago de Cuba and Guantanamo.

Companies affiliated with the ministry began distributing 2,090 tons of grain, a shortfall of 33,910 from the estimated 36,000-ton supply for March. The government announced that the next monthly food ration will include a free pound of rice, courtesy of a donation, which had previously been omitted.

Cuban families have had to put up with delayed deliveries of cooking oil since January due to the “late arrivals” of imports. In Pinar del Rio, Ciego de Avila and Holguin, January’s quota has yet to arrive. The government admits that February’s deliveries are also past due but hopes that locally produced supplies will allow it catch up this week.

Preliminary results from the 2022-2023 sugar harvest suggest that production will remain at rock bottom, far below the official target of 455,198 tons. Cubadebate also points out sugar deliveries will depend on the country’s available supply.

The government claims that dried beans and peas are available but admits that deliveries of March quotas will be delayed in eleven areas of the country.

It reports, however, that powdered milk intended for minors, as well as fresh milk for children one-year and older, will be available through collection centers from Matanzas to Las Tunas. Deliveries of rationed chicken have also begun. Meanwhile, domestic producers of canned fruit and coffee are trying to to meet their delivery deadlines.

Families in Santiago de Cuba, Guantanamo and Holguin will once again receive packages of donated food.

As though all this were not enough, the country is facing now facing a salt shortage.  Last week Vincente de la O Levy, minister of Energy and Mines, explained this was due largely to railway problems, which have complicated distribution.

“Our warehouses are full of salt but it is not reaching consumers because of transportation problems,” he said. At the same time he announced that the Armed Forces would take charge of moving 300 tons of salt by ship to Havana.

Contrary to official claims that Cuba is moving towards “food sovereignty,’ the government itself admits it must rely on imports to meet the basic nutritional needs of the population. This makes the country much more susceptible to swings in the international markets, the supply availabilities of its trading partners and its own ability to pay for these purchases.


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