14ymedio, Havana, 27 August 2020 — “We do not cut or filet, you take everything or nothing,” says an employee of the meat products stall in the hard currency store on Boyeros Street, in Havana. Despite the high price, the loin, sirloin and neck are very successful in freely convertible currency establishments, where customers buy pieces of meat imported from Paraguay using magnetic cards loaded with foreign currency.
“It makes no sense for me to take all that, so I came with a friend to share it half each,” said a buyer who paid 30 dollars for a loin weighing less than two kilograms, the equivalent of the monthly salary of a professional on the Island.
Between January and July of this year, Cuban imports of beef from that small South American country increased substantially to supply the new stores that sell in foreign currency, reports the Paraguayan media Ultima Hora.
The Island bought 47.8 tons of meat in that period from the companies Vima World Ltda. and the Importadora, Exportadora y Comercializadora MTG Ltda, both with foreign capital and associated with the Cuban Chamber of Commerce.
According to the Paraguayan Foreign Ministry, quoted by that media, the sale of meat in the middle of the pandemic “reaffirms the superior quality of the product, whose acceptance among the population is high precisely due to the excellence of the national meat production in its diverse levels.”
Between January and July 2020, Cuba invested $287,591 in this imported product, at a price of $6,017 per ton, higher than the amount paid by the island last year, the Paraguayan authorities said.
The same thing happened with some other countries that supply meat. In the first half of 2019, Cuba became the third biggest customer in Chile, behind China and Canada. In 2016, it became the 15th biggest market for the export of Colombian beef.
The supply of beef has suffered ups and downs in the foreign exchange markets and in many cases “to buy it you have to wake up in front of the store to be among the first to buy,” warns the custodian of the La Puntilla shopping center, in the Havana municipality of Playa. “Every day we take out a quantity but it is in high demand because it is clean and high quality meat, in addition to the fact that in this area there are many private restaurants that buy here.”
Without being sacred, as in India, the cow in Cuba is a highly controlled animal and the sale of its meat has been an exclusive monopoly of the State for decades. Domestic meat is barely found in official markets, and in informal networks it is very hidden due to the high penalties associated with the illegal slaughter of animals, the sale of beef and reception.
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