14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 25 April 2023 — The online sales pages for relatives abroad to buy for their relatives in Cuba have not only proliferated like fungi after the rain but reveal the disorder in the island’s diet.
Among the first five products of the “best sellers” on some sites, such as Supermarket 23, Yuppy Market, Alawao and Nercado, the following are repeated: condensed milk, powdered milk (with and without sugar), ground chicken, sausages, and mayonnaise and crackers (a frequent snack for many Cubans). These foods are not very compatible with a balanced diet.
Among the most requested products are also those that can be divided and stretched for several meals. The list is led by chicken or pork sausages, hamburgers and the ground turkey that is used in many homes to make croquettes, along with the instant soft drinks that constitute the main snack that students take to primary schools
While pieces of beef or pork are less in demand, boxes of frozen chicken quarters, entrails and cheap sausages are gone only hours after appearing for sale on those online portals. Vegetable oil is also frequently exhausted, and the supply of fruits, vegetables or greens is small and often sold in cut or frozen format.
Imported goods win, widely, over what is produced on the Island. It is easier to find in those digital markets a can of tuna from Europe than a fresh fish taken from the seas around Cuba. Cheeses, Gouda or cheddar style, also surpass several times the few nationally made dairy products that are marketed.
All this proves that the problem of malnutrition in Cuba is not only due to the increasingly alarming rates of poverty. When the food and toiletry shops were dollarized almost three years ago, it seemed that, at least those who received remittances from relatives abroad were going to be able to have varied food. This, despite assuming a new social division, very soon turned into a widespread complaint and even one of the reasons for the mass protests of July 11, 2021 (many demonstrations were over the closure of stores in MLC, freely convertible currency).
Just at the beginning of April, the UN World Food Program released a report saying that “the diet of the average Cuban household is poor in micronutrients and not sufficiently healthy or diverse due to the limited and unstable availability of nutritious food, socioeconomic factors and bad eating habits.”
The document, which denounces the responsibility for the Government’s economic decisions such as the so-called Ordering Task* emphasized that the situation was worse for the Cuban who did not receive remittances. However, sales websites for buying from abroad confirm that, as with happiness, money does not guarantee a good diet either.
Roast meat, lobster and shrimp, which have disappeared from the vast majority of Cuban tables, seem to come out of a fantasy novel today, but access to foreign currency does not even make Cubans lean towards the varied foods and fruits that the Island always provides: avocado, sweet potato, yucca, malanga, okra, bananas, mamey, pineapple, mango or any type of citrus: more eloquent evidence of the failure of a system that has lasted for 64 years.
*Translator’s note: Tarea Ordenamiento — The ’Ordering Task’ is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency, which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and a broad range of other measures targeted to different elements of the Cuban economy. Translated by Regina Anavy
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