14ymedio, Havana, 14 December 2021 — That pork is increasingly absent from the markets is something that any ordinary Cuban knows these days. The strange thing is that there is an authority who certifies this is the case. This Monday, Osvaldo Surí González, program coordinator of the provincial government of Cienfuegos, categorically did so. “Raw pork meat in quantities and in pounds cannot be sold anywhere because it does not exist,” he said in statements collected by official media, presumably referring to state production.
For this reason, the official said, “there is no need to despair” or “line up”, or “mark a place in line” or “look at the lists in the [butcher shop] box in Cienfuegos.”
As a contrast, he said “there is the goodness and willingness of various producers” to sell in a “controlled liberated [unrationed]” manner, although only in the provincial capital, a pound of “clean beef” for each child under seven years of age, as well as for pregnant women, those over 60 and a total of 2,324 “vulnerable families” registered by the municipality’s Social Security. “We can also manage that,” Surí boasted.
In addition, they will offer the same prerogative to “more than 200 combatants of the Cuban Revolution who are bedridden today,” whom they even plan to serve at home. “We have a space there in the box, where we are going to put it, and if we have to deliver it to homes, we will create the system to deliver it,” said the official, who pointed out that an agreement was reached with producers to sell beef at 100 pesos per pound.
The strategy of offering this product seems to be generalized by the end of the year, to compensate for the lack of pigs, whose price, when they appear, ranges from 200 pesos a pound at 19th and B streets, in Havana, to 270 pesos* in the market stalls of Cienfuegos.
A few days ago, the governor of Villa Clara, Alberto López Díaz, announced via Twitter that he was in Macún, “together with the directors of Agriculture, managing beef and equine meat for the assurances of the New Year’s Fair.” And he added: “It will be sold in bags of one and a half kilograms.”
In cities like Cárdenas, Matanzas or Santiago de Cuba, a pound of pork is 200 pesos, and although she not justify the prices of meat, Justina, who has always had “a little pig in the backyard of her house to eat meat every December 31st,” says that the current price has to do with the cost of the food to raise the pigs and she does not doubt that by the end of the year it will rise more.
“About 20 pounds of feed are currently sold in Santiago at 650 pesos. With this price there is no one who raises an animal,” complains the housewife who lives in the Santiago town of El Caney and has to buy on the black market because there is nothing in the State markets.
“Life is hard. Do I spend 650 pesos every week for feed? There is no one who can handle this burden. Because the pig is not the only one who eats, a chicken that you have there in the yard is also fed,” she adds. “Before, I cooked food, bought some root vegetables and boiled them on a wood stove to increase with the feed, but there aren’t even any vegetables in this country anymore.”
Although by the end of the year it is common for the price of pork to rise, since it constitutes the star dish of the December 31st dinner. This month it has reached its all-time high since 1994, when agricultural markets were authorized to be privately managed on the Island, after years of state control over agricultural trade.
The lack of food for animals is, the authorities have recognized, one of the causes of the decline in pig production.
In order to make this meat cheaper and increase productivity, it was announced a few weeks ago that the state company Holpor, located in Holguín, was going to resurrect the recipe for liquid feed for pigs — which has not been manufactured since the Special Period — given the disastrous figures. This year and only in that province, production is expected to reach 2,566 tons of pork meat compared to the 8,625 planned.
The recovery of the State pig farms that were not operated for a long time is one of more than 60 government initiatives to stimulate food production.
On that occasion, Holpor also said that it did not rule out selling very young pre-fattened pigs to private producers who had suffered in the last year the interruption of the breeding chain due to the lack of food for the animals.
The complaint of these producers is also known. As El Pana, an Artemiseño producer who dismantled his pig pen more than a year ago due to lack of feed, explained to this newspaper, “once you eat the female before putting her on the mount and taking her offspring, everything is over.” The State has already been selling young pigs to cooperatives and state farms but it is still under study whether to extend the sale to private farms.
*Translator’s note: Economic data for Cuba is notoriously hard to pin down, but this figure could represent a worker’s entire week’s wages.
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