The Cries of Cuban Bread Consumers Reach the Official Press

Some residents consider that the now restricted product could no longer even be called “bread”. (Escambray)

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14ymedio, Havana, 28 March 2022 — The excuses of Cuba’s Provincial Food Industry Company (EPIA) about the poor quality of the bread sold through the ration book do not convince even the official press. This Monday, the newspaper Cinco de Septiembre published a long article against what it calls “the prevailing impudence in the production of the valuable food.”

The local newspaper refers to, specifically, an EPIA statement published on Facebook where the state-owned company claimed, while defending itself from criticism received from consumers’ criticism, that what affects the “correct preparation of the final product” is the wheat flour that it gets, which “has weak quality characteristics.”

In spite of the efforts of master bread makers, workers and directors striving for creating a quality product,” EPIA acknowledged that, “The bread that is obtained is coarse, uneven, it crumbles to the touch and has little volume, darkened color, strong musty smell and an acid taste caused by the longer-than usual fermentation time in order to obtain the dough.”

Similarly, they predicted that this situation would continue, “taking into account that the wheat flour in reserve for the coming months has the same characteristics.”

The note in Cinco de Septiembre, entitled El Infortunio del Pan (The Bread Misfortune), a “soap opera reruns” says that such a response from EPIA “stoked the fire,” and states that “around 75% of users” questioned “the arguments presented,” considering them “excuses,” “regrets,” “unjustifiable justifications” and a “script that no one believes any more.”

“They are fodder wheats from second and third harvests from nations such as France, and occasionally from Argentina and Germany,” the official details

“The wheat we receive today is not ideal but it’s what the country can afford to buy,” Esther Arbolay Escobar, head of the Cienfuegos Cereals Base Business Unit Laboratory, told the provincial newspaper. “They are fodder wheats from the second and third harvests from nations such as France, and occasionally from Argentina and Germany,” the official details, admitting: “They are of terrible quality, with a high percentage of impurities, because they contain seeds from the field, corn, and sometimes they even have a mixture of green peas.”

However, the report continues, the certificates issued by the National State Inspection Office (ONIE) of the Ministry of the Food Industry in Villa Clara, “validate the levels of confidence” of the flour produced in Cienfuegos, and certify that “it is in perfect condition and meets the conditions in terms of smell, color, and other parameters.”

The poor quality of the material is not the only problem with bread, they argue from EPIA in the note. Thus, another official of the company, Jeny Hurtado Alejo, alluded to the fact that “we have not won in workers individual improvement,” that is, that the workers also have more responsibility.

In addition, “the technological conditions of the bakeries” are influencing factors. The director of EPIA, Magaly Torres Abreu, says that “the 48 installed Chinese modules” are deteriorated, and that “the breakages cause some to assume the load of others, but they no longer have the capacity for that.”

Laments abound not only among consumers, but also among bakers, such as Julián Alberto Brunet Abreu, who says that, at the Santa Elena bakery, near the Paquito González Cueto Pediatric Hospital in Cienfuegos, “even the carts to move the bread are in poor condition, and we run the risk of dropping the product when moving it from the oven to the stove.”

According to data from the ONIE in Cienfuegos, during 2022, some 14 bakeries – 11 from EPIA, and three from the Cuban Bread Company, which supplies outside the regulated basket and whose product has a slightly better quality – have been fined, “fundamentally, due to the low weight of the product,” says Cinco de Septiembre, which, they add, “has nothing to do with the quality of the raw materials.”

Translated by Norma Whiting

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