The Official Story, Live: Triple Payments to Producers Without Raising Prices on Consumers

The Youth Labor Army (EJT) market in Havana, this November. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 4 January 2021 — The governor of Havana approved an increase from 200% to 350% in the prices paid to agricultural producers but promised not to “raise the prices of retail sales (…) in most products, in order to protect to the population.” The resolution, which has come into force with the new year, sets the producer purchase prices, wholesale prices and maximum retail prices in pesos, both for state and private markets.

The authorities assure that the rise in prices is due to the intention of “stimulating the income of producers as the main link in the production and marketing chain.”

In contrast, it is not clear how consumer prices can be maintained if producers receive a 200% or more increase.

Since its launch, more than six years ago, 14ymedio has published every week the prices of the most common products found in various points of sale located throughout the Island, not only in the capital. Although it is true that there are no significant differences between the prices of recent weeks in Havana markets and those announced as of January 1 for the consumer, it remains to be explained how the purchase price can be raised for the producer without increasing it for the consumer.

What we have seen is with the list of available products that comes to the newsroom from all the provinces, the number of available products has decreased extremely, especially in recent weeks.

The resolution, published by Tribuna de La Habana, is accompanied by a PDF of a price list, divided into sections, on which the notable ones include bananas (most at between 2 and 4 pesos per pound), garlic at 47, and onions at between 10 and 28 depending on the type, beans, 14 for black and 16 for red, and chickpeas, 35 pesos per pound.

Citrus fruits also appear, such as oranges at 10, lemons at 13, beans at 8, and sweet peppers at 11, among many others.

“In the case of covered and packaged products, up to 20% above the approved retail sale price will be applied and when the covered products are cut and packed, up to 50% above the approved retail price will be applied,” said the official media Tribuna de La Habana.

The complaints have not taken long to appear among the readers of the official newspaper. “The dollar is at 24 (pesos) but there is no availability in the banks… at those prices, after the workers collect their salary increases, there needs to be availability of the products in the markets,” said one, knowing that for months the shops have been more bare than usual.

Others advocate openly for the free market and point out that prices regulate themselves with free competition. “They say that man is the only animal that stumbles twice on the same stone, but here they stumble 100 times and they have not learned that capping the prices is what causes greater scarcity.”

“Prices are very far from reality, the black market will continue to impose its statutes and the pockets of ordinary Cubans will continue to pay times above the prices published here”, considers another reader.

“Now they hide the products and sell them for higher prices, whoever wants to buy a lemon, for example, must go and look for the seller who is hiding it. Because it is a chain from the field, where oil and other materials make the things they have look for more expensive, under the table, like a welding rod, an angle to repair machines etc. to the producer pays dearly for everything and must sell dearly to the retailer and the carrier. It is a chain that multiplies the price at each link.”

Despite the criticism, the majority of readers of the state newspaper are in favor of the intervention, but their concerns are in the usual failure to act that occurs with these types of measures and they ask for greater control and penalties.

“Who will control this? Today the carts are selling a head of garlic for 10 pesos, nothing is by the pound, but they are not afraid, they do what they want. Come to Alturas de Belén, Marianao, and you will see. If severe measures aren’t taken, respect for the laws, the rules, will never be achieved,” writes a user in this regard.

Others even detail the most common tricks to circumvent a law that until now has shown to stimulate very little supply in the market. “Sounds good to me, I just hope that surnames do not start to appear on the products, for example Creole lemon from ’My Grandmother’s Farm’, 100 pesos per pound. As with the ham that was Viking ham its whole life and now there are 25 specials of every kind: sausages, meatloaf and I don’t know how many other things. And, of course, all are more expensive than the old famous Viking”

“I congratulate your reasoning because it is what happens in the long run: Class A carrot, 20 pesos per pound; black cassava with white rind, 10 pesos per pound; black Narnian beans, 25 pesos per pound; Macondo tomato, 20 pesos the pound; … and so on,” jokes another reader.

Many others ask that the measure taken in the capital be extended to the rest of the provinces and some even take advantage of the occasion to demonstrate against Havanacentralism. “Will Havana be Cuba? The measures that are taken only for the capital are always pronounced and, in the other provinces, everyone roaming around without respect. Please, where there are fewer things is in the provinces and the prices are sky high. Take measures for the country, not just for Havana,” protests a reader.


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