Cubans Eat the Most Expensive Eggs in the World / Juan Juan Almeida

Juan Juan Almeida — The lack of planning on the part of the Ministry of Agriculture has been the main trigger for the fact that hundreds of poultry farms have generated a crisis now experienced by Cubans as the absence of eggs, along with the high cost of such an important food when it can be found.

Low egg production, allegedly caused by severely stressed hens after the passage of Hurricane Irma, has forced the black market importing of this essential food from the beach resort of Cancun, in Mexico. The whole thing seems like a plot invented by some filmmaker for a science fiction movie, but no, it’s real news, coming from the island.

Cuban TV national and provincial news programs are showing repeated images where some producers in the national assembly debate the steps necessary to rescue the production of eggs, and attribute the scarcity of the product to the indisposition of the birds, in addition to the destruction of more than 615 poultry houses by Hurricane Irma.

But the main trigger continues to be the lack of planning by Cuba’s Ministry of Agriculture, such that hundreds of poultry farms have generated the crisis that Cubans suffer today for the lack of this food source that is such a staple for ordinary Cubans.

A note published on October 1 in the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth, the official voice of the Cuban Communist youth) announced that as an emergency measure to meet the needs of the people, the government will sell “more than one million eggs, five per consumer, at a price of 1.10 pesos each.”

I do not know the psychology of birds; but it is crazy that within the Cuban fauna, the hens belonging to the State are the only ones stressed out. The private farmers are, according to all reports, “raking it in,” selling eggs from small producers at 4 pesos each.

The origin of this crisis, which is not the first and I suspect will not be the last, is not found in avian tension, anguish or depression, but in other elements that affect the production of the most popular of all the foods that make up the essential diet and the basic Cuban food basket.

The hurricane is not the culprit. The poultry industry in Cuba has had a continuous and acceptable development, has good breeding stock, mainly in layers, and has achieved a production per bird of 280 eggs per year, with a weight of 3.2 pounds per ten eggs produced. However, by not respecting the living space requirements of these animals, plus the low availability and quality of water, causing a high incidence of prolapse, along with the lack of adequate food, has caused the layers to acquire the vice of picking at each other’s feathers, and harassing their companions, especially when they are in their nests. All this has a very negative effect on egg production.

The egg crisis on the island has no quick solution, and it also affects self-employed workers in restaurants that survive between the desire to hide, the need to trade and the frenzy of the market.

“We have a partner who supplies us with flan, custard, pudding, cakes and other desserts that we offer in the restaurant; but they aren’t selling because if the police grab them in the street with any product that contains eggs in the recipe, they charge them with receiving stolen goods,” explains the owner of a small paladar (private restaurant).

But that small group of restaurant owners who, cautiously and shrewdly, have managed to scale the ladder and break, in plain sight, although invisibly, the egalitarian aesthetic imposed by the Revolution, managed to find harmony in the contradiction and devised the solution (quite expensive, by the way). They travel as a group and import, without formal permits, cartons of egg that accompany them as luggage from Cancun to Havana. No doubt, André Breton (author of the Manifesto of Surrealism), lacked imagination.