14ymedio, Havana, May 12, 2021 — The United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) and the Russian embassy in Havana have confirmed the Cuban government’s claims that both parties authorized the sale of cooking oil, which was intended for donation, on a temporary basis with a commitment from the Cubans to replace the product later.
“There has been a disruption in the production of bottles in Cuba that has prevented cooking oil from being packaged and prepared as part of government’s monthly basket of rationed goods. To ensure that people in Havana’s six to fifteen local municipalities receive timely delivery of the entire monthly allotment of staple foods, including cooking oil, the government requested a loan of 150 metric tons of bottled oil from the WFP, which will be replaced once the current supply has been distributed,” the Panama-based organization told Radio Televisión Martí.
In early May, widely circulated photos were posted online showing a one-liter bottle of Russian cooking oil with a label indicating that its sale was prohibited because it had been donated by the WFP.
The Ministry of Domestic Trade later claimed that disruptions in the national supply chain had prevented domestically produced cooking oil from being bottled for sale on the rationed market, adding that the WFP’s oil would be replenished as soon as possible.
“The loan we are providing to the government was part of a major Russian food donation from the WFP. We contacted the Russian embassy in Havana after the government requested the loan and agreed to its request,” the Miami-based UN organization responded.
“The government has also informed its public that the bottles of cooking oil with the label “not for sale” will be returned to the WFP once problems with bottling supplies have been resolved in June,” it adds.
At the end of April Russia donated several tons of food, valued at one million dollars, to Cuba through the WFP. At a ceremony marking the event, the Russian ambassador to Cuba, Andrei Guskov, said the aid was a reflection of the friendly relations and solidarity the two nations had maintained over many years and predicted similar aid shipments later this year.
The donation includes 253 tons of cooking oil and 430 tons of wheat to be distributed to 77,000 people through the Family Care System, which provides food services to individuals who are elderly, disabled, low-income or have no family.
WFP representative Pablo Mattei, who also attended the ceremony, said this type of assistance “increases the Cuban people’s ability to respond to emergency situations like the current worldwide epidemiological crisis, which is impacting countries’ food security.”
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