14ymedio, Madrid, 26 December 2022 — Russia will invest more than 11.7 million dollars in sending wheat to Cuba, according to the note published this Sunday in the Island’s official press about the delivery of more than 25,000 tons of wheat from Moscow to Havana. The news fell as a Christmas gift to the readers of the state media, who wondered, however, how much bread that would translate into. The answer is disappointing.
If all the wheat sent by Russia were used to make flour and this in turn were used in the manufacture of bread, the State would obtain approximately 41 million pounds: not even four pounds per Cuban.
Although the bread recipe varies, the calculation has been made taking into account the approximation of the Agricultural Foundation for the Development of Argentina (FADA). The organization calculates that 1.4 kilos of wheat is the amount of wheat needed to make 1 kilo of flour, and 0.96 kilos of flour is needed to make 1 kilo of bread. Or even simpler, to make 1 kilo of bread you need 1.34 kilos of wheat.
The Cuban government has not given details on how it will sell the wheat donated by Russia, which will arrive by sea in the coming days and at the beginning of 2023. There are 469 million rubles (about 6.7 million dollars) destined for the purchase of the product and more than 300 million rubles for the transfer.
The Prensa Latina agency explained that the Russian Ministry of Emergencies is responsible for the entire procurement, transport and delivery process, although the Foreign Ministry will help in the operations.
The exchanges between Russia and Cuba for the acquisition of wheat flour are not something new nor can they be linked to Miguel Díaz-Canel’s recent visit to Moscow. For several years, supplies have been constant and stable, although in recent years — and with the worsening of the crisis on the Island — donations have multiplied. Already during the pandemic, Havana received several shipments of humanitarian aid that included wheat.
As for this year, this is the second time that donated Russian wheat has arrived. In April, Moscow sent almost 20,000 tons of the grain with a great delay compared to what was agreed, which was attributed to international sanctions.
The Russian ambassador to Cuba, Andrei Guskov, said at the time that the “important item” of “humanitarian shipment” had problems because the shipowner could not be paid “because of the sudden disconnection of several Russian banks” from the international Swift payment system.
The shortage of wheat flour has generated significant discomfort among the Cuban population due to its impact on the poor quality of the bread. Criticism even reached the official press, which regretted that the product looked “less and less like bread and was more expensive.”
The Government of Havana even stated in August that the State had a shortage of flour that affected the production of bread, but that bread would be guaranteed in “the regulated family basket,” prisons, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals, as well as for the Cuban Bread Chain.
In Sancti Spíritus, state bakeries began to add up to 20% of rice peel residue to the dough, according to 14ymedio.
Upon learning of the last donation, this Sunday, the readers of Cubadebate celebrated the success of the collaboration with Russia and thanked the “brother country” for its help. However, many wondered what real quantities those tons, that at first glance seemed so much, would be translated into.
Many were also concerned about the destination of the product, which can be poorly managed and go on sale in foreign exchange stores or resellers. “We must protect and control that this donation does not fall into the hands of criminals and is dedicated to a fair production of bread aimed at the most dispossessed. Our control is still insufficient; we have gaps and an unprecedented ladder of corruption,” said one on-line commenter.
Russia has also taken the opportunity to congratulate, a week in advance, “the Cuban people and government on the advent of the 64th anniversary of the triumph of the Revolution,” according to Prensa Latina.
Translated by Regina Anavy
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