Cuba’s Caribe Stores and Their 47 Basic Products

What is the point of spending hard-to-get currencies to buy something that you can buy with national bills? (Luz Escobar / 14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar, Havana, 17 July 2020 — Among the presentations on Cuban State TV’s Roundtable program on Thursday, July 16, Ana María Ortega Tamayo, general director of Tiendas Caribe (Caribe Stores), appeared with the task of assuring the population that the opening of stores that will sell food and toiletries in freely convertible currency does not mean this particular merchandise is no longer sold in the 4,800 stores throughout the country that take payment in one of Cuba’s two currencies: Cuban convertible pesos (CUC) and Cuban pesos (CUP).

After clarifying payment through magnetic cards (MCL) loaded with hard currency, will focus on what she called “the deep assortment”, she maintained that the 47 basic products that until now have been marketed in these stores, which Cubans call shopping, using the English word, will remain.

While it is still unknown what will be included in the vague definition of “mid-range and high-end products” that will be offered by the new stores, it is also vague to precisely name the list of 47. In an internet search, the only the products that appeared were subject to control to prevent hoarding. If we include those that, due to customer experience, are not regulated but are sold, the list that we put at the end of this text can be formed.

It can be assumed that most of the 47 will also be traded in stores in convertible currency, and so the question that falls under its own weight is this: what is the point of spending hard-to-get currencies to buy something that you can buy with national bills?

A can of tuna, for example, will merit being bought in MCL stores for only two reasons: it is cheaper than at the shopping or to avoid the line. There is also the silly argument of vanity, of being able brag about having a magnetic card with better capabilities.

The most powerful reason for spending hard-to-get bills (and it’s not that getting the others is easy) will be the absence of many of the 47 items in the usual markets. If those who distribute the goods in both commercial modalities are the same, you can guess where the tuna cans will go when there are few left, because the ship was delayed, because the embargo prevented it, because the financing was lacking, because the the country was in debt to the supplier or for the infinite reasons why a product can become a shortage.

It is false, as President Díaz-Canel warned, that the sale in the current stores will now be suspended to bring the products to the new ones that operate in convertible currency. The question is what will happen when the dilemma arises of where it will be more profitable to sell what little is left of a merchandise.

Here we leave a list of what, without being official, can be assumed to be on the list.


      1. Vegetable oil

      2. Water

      3. Rice

      4. Sugar

      5. Coffee

      6. Candies

      7. Beer

      8. Chewing gum

      9. Jams and jellies

      10. Canned meat

      11. Canned fish

      12. Link sausages

      13. Noodles

      14. Cookies

      15. Crackers

      16. Grain

      17. Burgers

      18. Wheat flour

      19. Powdered milk

      20. Evaporated milk

      21. Tomato paste

      22. Other tomato preserves

      23. Pasta

      24. Turkey and mixed hash

      25. Beef hash

      26. Chicken

      27. Tomato puree

      28. Cheese

      29. National soft drinks

      30. Salt

      31. Vinegar

      32. Dry wine

      33. Yogurt

Personal care and grooming products

       34. Sanitary pads

       35. Toothbrushes

       36. Shampoo

       37. Toothpaste

       38. Disposable diapers

       39. Deodorant

       40. Detergent

       41. Floor cleaning cloths

       42. Washing soap

       43. Hand soap

       44. Toilet paper

       45. Perfumes

       46. Wet wipes…. and others


       47. Cigarettes


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