‘Seeking Sugar at Any Price’ Says the Post in the Face of Rationing in Santiago De Cuba

In September, in more than 200 Santiago ration stores, four pounds of standard sugar per consumer were delivered instead of three, due to the late arrival of the information. (ACN)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 22 September 2023 — Nobody knows where the sugar is in Santiago de Cuba, although if you search on social networks, it appears. The provincial government conveyed to the population on Tuesday a message from the Ministry of Internal Trade trying to call for calm about the rumors that emerged in recent days that predicted the suppression of some products in the monthly family basket — sold through the ration stores — but they achieved the opposite.

The denial reported the delivery of the product and the delay in receiving it, taking the opportunity to remind Cubans that, as is being done throughout the country, the amount of standardized sugar has passed from four to three pounds per person per month. “Well, they eliminated a pound of sugar, don’t say that nothing has been eliminated. And, from what they say, in October they are also going to give three pounds. Until when?” a santiaguero reacted. “Now, less sugar. Don’t they understand that we can’t live on air?” cried another.

Those who were lucky enough to receive four pounds by mistake this month will get one less next month

By that time they still did not know what was going to arrive on Thursday, when the official newspaper of the province, Sierra Maestra, published a brief report with the title “Necessary clarification on the sugar of the standard family basket.” Those who were lucky enough to receive four pounds by mistake this month will have one less next month, announced Juan Carlos Rosell Zarrabeitía, coordinator of the Commerce programs.

“In the current month, in more than 200 ration stores in the Santiago territory, the four pounds of standard sugar were delivered as a result of the late arrival of information to the shops and, in other cases, by mistake of the shopkeepers,” it explains. “Consumers who received the complete product are informed that in October they will receive only two pounds of sugar, taking into account that for September and October it is only possible to give three pounds per consumer,” it says.

The report, published almost 24 hours ago, has not been disseminated by the local press on their networks, and it is foreseeable that many people from Santiago will not know that they will have to save sugar this month, because in the next one they will receive half as much as usual.

However, the “excess” received this month seems to have gone straight to the black market. One pound already exceeds 180 pesos, an amount that for the area is very high, and on social networks the request for the product now resembles a plea.

“Seeking sugar at any price,” a santiaguero posted early this Friday morning on a Facebook page. The post has almost 50 comments, and there are at least a dozen sellers willing to offer it for prices ranging from 170 to 300 pesos. Others do not even make the price public. “I have a bag at 300,” “I have ten pounds at 170,” “I have 30 pounds, anyone who wants can write to me privately.”

“I buy sugar,” reads a post on another page for buying and selling all kinds of products in Santiago de Cuba. “Me too,” one replies. “I’m also looking for it,” says another. And so on, up to eight of the 18 comments.

The authorities benefit from the “cannibalism” in which Cubans live, who speak of the urgent need to be in a constant state of “every man for himself”  

“People like to criticize the Government, and rightly so,” says a santiaguero on another page for exchanges in the province. “But we are not left behind. A pound of sugar is 150 or 180 pesos… What we do to ourselves is abusive,” he regrets. The comment has generated an intense debate among those who consider that the authorities benefit from the “cannibalism” in which Cubans live, who speak of the urgent need to be in a constant state of “every man for himself.”

“Appealing to conscience in extreme situations is a utopia,” one refutes. “The one who kills the cow is guilty,” says the one who started the debate in relation to the Government, “as is the one who ties the legs (…) So are [the people] for enduring. And the one who sells at retail keeps quiet because it’s his time and he takes advantage of it, even if he is aware that it hurts others,” he adds.

The shortage in the market of a product that, in the imagination of the world, is still, along with rum and tobacco, the brand of Cuba, is such that the fight is now over brown sugar, considered on the Island as of worse quality than the white one. “Here in Camarioca I don’t remember the last time that white sugar came,” says a man. “Brown sugar, I’m looking urgently, call me,” announces another.

The forecasts by province point to a another poor sugar harvest, which seems to have no end. In 2022, the target was 911,000 tons, and barely 473,720 were obtained. By 2023, the authorities had scheduled the production of 455,198 tons of sugar, almost as much as what they usually export, but last year they were not able to meet their commitments.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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