Cuba Imported More Food From the United States in May, but ‘Scared Off’ Other Investors

Line to buy the chicken that is unloaded at the Tulipán store in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 11 June 2023 — After three months in which chicken exports from the United States to Cuba seemed to be plummeting, May brought a miraculous recovery: chicken  experienced an increase of 33% in value and 62.4% in the number of tons imported compared to April. The Island bought 25,281.8 tons at $0.89 per kilogram, which was a total expenditure of $22.69 million.

Havana took advantage of the 18.3% drop in the price of the kilogram of chicken in the United States (compared to the 1.09 dollars per kilogram spent in April) to increase its purchases and reverse a trend that began in February, when the Island could only import 23,014 tons (21.7% less than what was imported in the first month of the year).

However, for Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, the data, despite being a “leap” in Havana’s ability to acquire chicken, is not a good sign because it reveals the “growing import dependence” of the Island with respect to other countries in the region, with the United States in the lead.

Even so, it is to be expected, Monreal foresees, that imports from the United States will maintain their “oscillating” condition, and it will not be uncommon for new highs and lows in both the value of chicken and the number of tons imported by Cuba to be recorded throughout the year.

With a more than remarkable difference with respect to the United States, Brazil is Havana’s second most important exporter of chicken, and it sent 1,066.2 tons to the Island in May. In third place is Paraguay, a partner that Cuba counted on for the first time in February of this year, and that this month sent only 27.8 tons, a significantly lower amount than that of February, when it sent 83 tons.

Spain, Poland and the Netherlands, which had sold chicken to the Island on several occasions during 2022 and the first months of this year, are not on the list of importers in May.

“The dynamics of chicken exports from the United States to Cuba (with cash advance payment) indicates Cuba’s difficulties in finding stable, high-volume suppliers that offer credit,” Monreal summarizes.

Although the data don’t specify which parts of the chicken Havana has imported, it is enough to review the offers in state shops and in the informal market to notice the prominence of hindquarters and thighs. The breasts are much scarcer, and the sale of the whole bird is also significantly lower.

On Tuesday, the economist criticized another unfavorable aspect of the Cuban economy: the “dysfunctional secrecy” with which the government hides the data on foreign investment and which, among other harmful effects, “scares off” potential investors.

Monreal’s opinion was issued after learning that Cuba was the only country in the region that did not collaborate with the annual report of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on foreign investment. The Island “does not appear reflected in the tables,” despite the fact that other dysfunctional and “parsimonious” economies, such as Venezuela and Haiti, did provide information to the organization.

For its part, the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council reported that the United States registered, during the month of May, a 3.7% increase in its food exports to Cuba, the equivalent of $26,476,991. Among the products sent to the Island are coffee, waffles, cookies, powdered milk, beer, toilet paper, pork and preserves, as well as chicken.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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