Cuban Stores Sell Rationed Rum in Bottles Intended for Cooking Oil

Bottling rum in plastic containers originally intended to hold cooking oil. (Trabajadores)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, December 27, 2022 — With supplies down due to low productivity, the plastic containers normally used to bottle domestically produced cooking oil are instead being used to bottle rum. The Cuban government plans to distribute more than 4.5 million liters of the spirit, one of the few consumer products that is meeting its production targets, to Cuban families to coincide with the winter holidays.

An article published in the state-run newspaper Trabajadores on December 25 reports that, “after a “great productive effort,” the rum industry will close out the year on Wednesday. The government plans to distribute the beverage to more that four million households to enjoy as part of their New Year celebrations.

Rum seems to be the only product that will not be in short supply on Cuban tables at year’s end. Pork and chicken output has not been enough to meet demand. Last week, more than two-thousand people waited in line outside a state-run store on Melones Street in Havana’s Luyanó neighbor to buy meat.

Though the regime is incapable of managing the economy in a way that would provide Cubans with the staple foods necessary for a healthy diet, it seems it can meet its alcoholic beverage production targets. Meanwhile, shortages of milk, bread, fruit, vegetables and other daily products are ever more keenly felt, compelling many people to move abroad.

This result will generate a “plurality of opinion,” states the newspaper, which acknowledges that there are some who will not consider this a “mission accomplished” until the product has a permanent presence on store shelves. For the “great majority,” however, it argues that they will view the this as evidence the strategy is highly effective because now “Cubans can all buy drinks we like at least once a year.”

Havana’s Provincial Beverage and Soft Drink Company began a production run of 730,000 liters of rum on December 25 and ended it on Monday as scheduled, according to the company director, Nilda Lopez. The article states that the beverage will be distributed through 1,647 retail outlets throughout the capital.

The director indicated that both production and distribution of the rum has been made possible with help from other state-run institutions, among them Havana Commerce and Confectionary, Guido Perez Brewing, and Mayabeque, Molinería and Alibec Beverages.

“The one-liter and five-liter plastic bottles were supplied by Havana’s cooking oil company as well as by Ciego de Montero soft drinks and Villa Clara Military Industrial. This fact has not gone unnoticed by the Cuban public as evidenced by social media posts which criticize it as a “disgrace” and mockingly call it an example of “Cuban bad taste.”

The Western Rum Factory, the largest manufacturer in the capital, also resumed production after its plant shut down because it did not have enough alcohol or plastic bottles according to Yovayne Gonzalez, the company’s director of production. She explained that, given the shortage of supplies, it was decided to produce 34-proof beverage instead and market it under the Ronda label.

“We did it without interrupting production of our Legendario line. It is our main product and is intended for export. This year we were able to fully satisfy our overseas commitments,” Gonzalez told Trabajadores.

The Metropolitana plant was not to be outdone, added Matha María Perdomo, head of production, who reported that every day some 25,000 liters of rum are bottled there. Regular employees and clerical staff, though not managers, joined production line workers to help get the rum out. This was “in addition to the sodas and syrups that we have for which we have sales contracts,” she added.

The government is concerned about the nation’s alcohol consumption and its impact on Cubans’ health. The latest National Health Survey, conducted from 2018 to 2020, revealed that 73% of those polled said they had consumed alcoholic beverages in the previous thirty days, higher than the 67% reported in the 2020 study.

“Unfortunately, the alcohol consumption is risen 68% among those ages ten to nineteen,” said Public Health Minister Jose Angel Portal Miranda during a presentation of census results last July. The official figures indicate that between 7% and 10% of the population suffers from alcoholism, a rate that is likely much higher in regions of the country where recreational opportunities are few and cases can remain undiagnosed.

The World Health Organization warns that alcohol and tobacco abuse is the cause of various public health problems. These include digestive disorders due to lack of vitamins, gastric ulcers, pancreatic lesions, cirrhosis of the liver, and other diseases that can impact a person’s quality of life.


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