In Havana, an ‘All for a Hundred’ Market… and More

San Rafael Market, in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Juan Diego Rodríguez, Havana , 4 December 2021 — Castile melon, Chinese plum and even mangoes. The supply in the private market at 19th and B streets, in Havana’s Vedado district, has increased in recent weeks, as Christmas approaches. However, most buyers see this entire burgeoning variety as a mirage, because they cannot afford the high prices of the products.

“This market should be renamed and called ’all for one hundred’,” says a woman sarcastically at the entrance to the busy store. “A 4-pound piece of papaya costs 100 pesos, half a melon 100, a mango 100,” and she cries out: “A mango! Where are we going to stop?”

In this agricultural market, which some ironically call “the boutique” not so much for its assortment, greater than in other places, as for its prices. The prices of pork, at 195 pesos per pound, and some vegetables, such as carrots and beets, at 50 pesos per pound.

The outlook for the state-run 17th and K market was not much better as, although the products cost slightly less, there were only eight or nine for sale. In the case of onions, there was not even a difference with a private trade: in both places the price was 75 pesos per pound. “The onion here should cost less,” says one customer as he meticulously chooses small, medium-quality tomatoes. “Only in the case of the red onion the price is lower, and the lower quality tomato costs 40 when the individuals have it at 50. It does not make a big difference.”

In other small squares of Centro Habana visited by this newspaper, the situation was repeated: in San Rafael a pound of eggplant reached 40 pesos on Thursday, and the plantain, 7 pesos per unit. “Those days of drinking eggplant water for cholesterol are over,” says an old woman. “Two of the smallest eggplants can cost up to 60 pesos. What else can a retiree buy here other than sweet potato and pumpkin (at 10 pesos per pound)?”

The cost of all this, Cubans on the street agree, went through the roof with the Ordering Task*. Before these measures, in force for almost a year, you could find pork steak at 35 pesos per pound. “At most 50,” says a neighbor from Centro Habana. “I’ve never eaten a pork steak from January to now, and I don’t buy tomatoes either. If that’s me, and I’m not poor, how is it for the ordinary Cuban?”

*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = The [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others.


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