In Cuba One Egg, a Common Food, Now Costs More Than the Daily Pension of a Retiree

Eggs cost 3,500 pesos per carton of 30 in the informal market, compared to 2,000 a year ago

The shortage of eggs in the rationed market has pushed consumers into informal trade networks / 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 14 April 2024 — In the ’80s, when the Soviet subsidy had created the mirage of prosperity in Cuba, in primary schools, along with names and mockery for physical appearance, it was common to insult each other by saying “in your house you only eat eggs.” The product accumulated in the markets and was rejected with disdain in the labor canteens. No one could foresee its conversion into an exclusive and longed-for food.

Four decades have passed, and there is nothing left of that stigma attached to the egg. Instead of disdaining it or making it a target of children’s jokes, now many Cubans long to have it on their plate, whether it’s fried, boiled or poached. This April, a carton with 30 eggs costs 3,500 pesos in the informal market of Havana, while a year ago the same carton cost 2,000.

This Saturday, at the Galiano Street fair in Centro Habana, customers raised their eyebrows when they read the price on the egg carton. “But last week I bought it for 3,000 pesos; how did it go up by 500 all of a sudden?” a woman protested in front of one of the many kiosks that exhibited very white eggs, apparently imported given their size and cleanliness.

“I need my daily retirement and a little more to be able to buy one egg” 

“Are these the Colombian eggs?” asked another possible buyer, but the seller only shrugged her shoulders without knowing what to answer. “I ask because the last time I bought Cuban eggs the yolk was so pale that it was confused with the white, and I read on the internet that Cuba is buying eggs from Colombia. I hope those aren’t as anemic,” she said sarcastically.

“I have a pension of 3,400 pesos per month, so I need my daily retirement and a little more to be able to buy an egg,” complained a man who also came to inquire about the price of the product. “To top it off, you have to buy the whole carton because they don’t sell them one at a time, so I don’t even have enough in my pension.”

Indispensable in multiple recipes, the egg affects the price of many other products. When it gets more expensive, so do the offers of pastry, birthday cakes, cold salads, breaded dishes, croquettes, meringues, tortillas and whatever mixture you need that requires some white or yolk.

“People complain because the small marquesitas (cheese pastries) cost 180 pesos and the large cost 250, but because of the price of eggs, I have had to raise everything,” the owner of a small sweet shop on Primelles Street in the neighborhood of El Cerro explains to 14ymedio. “Right now, for example, we are not making cappuccino cake because it needs a lot of eggs, and we can only make two or three meringue sweets a day.”

Evolution of the price of eggs in Cuba during the last year in the informal market and ‘MSMEs’ / 14ymedio

“I have several suppliers who give me a discount if I buy more than ten cartons, but I don’t like to have so many eggs at once because they spoil, and if a long blackout occurs I lose everything,” explains the entrepreneur. “I’ve bought some dehydrated egg but it’s not the same; it’s good for some recipes but not for all.”

“Imported eggs at 3,000 pesos a carton. Minimum purchase of ten cartons,” reads an ad on Facebook. “We are located in Playa and don’t have transport at home,” added the classified with a photo of some light brown eggs, most appreciated by Cubans who associate them with the Creole product that was once available from farmers or non-industrialized farms.

The shortage of eggs in the rationed market – there are places where the product has not reached the State stores for months – has pushed consumers to the informal trade networks and private companies. In all of them, the price has increased by 75% in one year, and the supply varies according to the imports that arrive in the country.

Plump and fragile, the egg now appears at an excessive cost. Those who grew up laughing at a friend who only had scrambled eggs for lunch at home now swallow their jokes and dream of an intense yellow yolk into which they sink a piece of bread. Then, when they are about to put the delicacy in their mouth, they wake up suddenly with the screams of a street vendor who proclaims: “Let’s go, the eggs have arrived, at 3,500 pesos the carton!”

Translated by Regina Anavy


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