Pork is Missing Because Tourists Are Missing

Pork producers are discouraged by taxes and price caps and don’t see any business. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 6 July 2020 — Pork meat is seen less and less in Cuban markets. Since the pandemic came, the absence has been resounding, but production has been falling for two years, as Cubadebate admits in an article published this Monday in which it tries to explain the “mysterious” lack of the product and concludes that the main reason is the absence of tourists.

“Starting from the world economic situation, plus the lack of income from tourism and other exports — which since the second half of 2019 began to be affected by the intensification of the blockade [the US embargo] — supplies of imported raw materials for feed have been cut by 50%,” Norberto Espinosa Carro, president of the Livestock Business Group, told Cubadebate.

The text anticipates the doubts that may arise among readers. If there have been no tourists, there has also been no consumption of pork in that sector, so one might wonder where it has ended up. “There was no tourism, but there were isolation centers, protection for vulnerable people. Obviously, what was not for tourism went to those destinations, and it used to make more ham, chopped pork… The meat is not stored,” says Regla María Ferrer Domínguez, chief de la Technological Pork Division of the same company.

Apart from the pandemic, the problems come from before, they admit. In 2019 the plan foresaw 205,000 tons of meat and only 180,000 tons were reached. The Minister of Agriculture, Gustavo Rodríguez Rollero, in his last appearance on the Roundtable television program, said that this year only a third of what was needed was being produced, about 6,000 tons per month of the 17,000 that are required to supply the population. As if that were not enough, the State owes 90,000 tons to producers, so the forecast is not good.

Espinosa Carro indicated that they have turned to feeding them chickens, “but it has not been enough for fattening pigs, breeders, “and with the poverty of the diets consumed by animals on 140 state farms, the production has been bad and, consequently, the prices have gone up.

Pigs, Cubadebate explains, must gain 90 kilos (200 pounds) in six months, but if that fattening does not occur, there is no product.

Ferrer Domínguez reels off the bad numbers. The year has already started with a deficit of 15% of the planned feed for pigs (190,000 tons). In March, the disaster was already 27,000 tons of meat less than expected.

With the outbreak of the pandemic, the newspaper continues, food imports plummeted, some 75,000 tons less, which forced a reduction in the forecast from 190,000 tons of meat to 100,000. Result: the pork received by markets and restaurants, about 2,000 tons, is now 600.

In addition, another of the justifications is that of the decrease in breeders. According to Cubadebate, of the 15,000 breeder sows that  contributed 92% of the national demand, now there are only 5,934.

The Minister of Agriculture pointed out on the Roundtable show that the State cannot maintain the conditions of the agreement with breeders through which they are provided with 70% of the feed, of which 45% is imported. “In the next few years we have to gradually reverse this matrix,” Rodríguez Rollero warned.

The article describes several possible solutions, one of which involves the delivery of land for planting feed to be consumed by animals so that these crops account for 40% of the food. “It is inescapable that the productive matrix that we had for years, based on the importing mentality, changes. The flare-up of the blockade and the Covid-19 has forced us to change,” said Espinosa Carro, ensuring that the mention of the embargo is not lacking.

The manager also talks about scientific solutions, such as genetic engineering so that there are more dark-coated pigs, “less productive but more resistant,” a program that has already started but is also stopped because “importation has unfortunately been lacking.”

The Cubadebate text mentions, instead and in passing, the disincentive that taxes and prices imply.

The pork deficit has not only caused the most important markets in the Cuban capital to not have the product on offer for weeks, but customers have to dive into the black market in order to buy steak, leg, loin, ribs or shoulder, in addition to pork sausages.

The price of a pound of pork has skyrocketed and is already around 50 CUP in the informal market in Havana, and most commonly the buyer must pay “by the pound on the hoof,” the weight of the product with the animal not yet slaughtered, an amount that is significantly reduced after processing.


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