The Price of US Chicken Rises, Imports to Cuba Fall

Customers lining up to buy chicken at a private business in San Rafael, Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 8 September 2023 — The price of a kilo of chicken that Cuba imports from the United States continues to rise and stood at $1.23 USD in July, 3.4% more than the previous month ($1.19) and 38% more than in May, when it barely cost $0.89. In this context, imports were reduced compared to the previous month both in quantity, for a total of 24,398 tons, and in value, at an expense of 30 million dollars. In June, the Island had imported 27,631 tons from the neighboring country for $32.8 million.

The increase in price “perhaps did not have much influence,” reports Cuban economist Pedro Monreal, who nevertheless points out that the tendency to import poultry meat from the United States is increasing if looked at with perspective. Beyond the monthly fluctuations, the time graph shown by the expert, which covers purchases since 2002, reveals an ascending line that is especially clear since 2019.

“The figures are sourced from the US Department of Agriculture and include all exports of chicken meat to Cuba contracted by all types of final clients (state and MSMEs*),” adds Monreal, who expects to see later the effect that the limitations of banking may have on these purchases.

Evolution of chicken imports from the US between 2002 and 2023.
Evolution of chicken imports from the US between 2002 and 2023.

In recent months, Cubans had noticed a slight drop in the prices of chicken, as well as in those of cooking oil, which, along with poultry, is the item most imported by the new private companies that have flourished in Cuba. However, the announcement at the beginning of August of new measures to increase electronic transactions [being referred to as bancarización] and reduce the circulation of cash threaten to once again overload the cost of the only protein of animal origin that Cubans can now aspire to on a daily basis, due to the scarcity and surveillance of pork and, even more so, beef.

Concern about how private companies, which buy in foreign currency but sell in pesos, are going to import, in the absence of a realistic official exchange market, is among Cuban’s first concerns and has been reflected in several articles in the state press in this country of this same week, one month after the announcement of the banking reform measures by the Central Bank of Cuba.

The Cuban economist Óscar Fernández, very critical of bancarización, warned from the first moment of the deviations that it could impose on the purchases of these products. “There will be a severe reduction in the supply of private imports” and, consequently, the rise in prices of products “that had begun to fall.”

“Chicken, cooking oil and detergent are purchased by many people who are very far from being in a high income percentile, who find in this private supply a better alternative to the black market, both in price and safety, and incidentally many times cheaper than the stores’ offer (in) MLC (freely convertible currency),” he explained. “On the other hand, when the private supply of chicken disappears, higher-income people will generate a demand that will be met by the chicken ’of the poor’ [distributed in the ration market]. And they will divert and buy the chicken from the poor. It’s that simple.”

*Translator’s note: MSME = Micro-, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises, which are privately operated.

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