The Shortage of Beer Harms Small Businesses in Havana

In the state stores the national beer has a price of 1 CUC but in the last weeks the national production is barely seen on the shelves. (Brando / Flickr)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Zunilda Mata, Havana, 3 March 2020 — “The owner went out from this morning to try to get beer and has not returned,” explains the employee of a small restaurant on Tulipán Street, in Havana, to a customer who has come eagerly hoping for a Buccaneer or a Crystal.

“There is no store in this neighborhood,” adds the woman. Nor in the rest of the capital, where the shortage of beer hasn’t affected private businesses again this week, especially coffee shops and restaurants that include in their menus alcoholic beverages of national production or imported. National beers are only found in a few markets, which limit the sale to small quantities for each customer.

In the state stores the national beer has a price of 1 CUC but in the last weeks the national production is barely seen on the shelves. What’s available are brands from Mexico, Panama, Europe and some other distant places on the planet at higher prices.

“More than a week goes by and there’s no beer,” he administrator of a Caribbean chain store located in the central street Reina told 14ymedio. “It is one of the products that is most in demand, so when supplies do not arrive it affects us,” he says. “This is an area with many private businesses that are currently affected by this situation.”

According to the Cuban Statistical Yearbook of 2018, that year the beer production grew discreetly on the Island to reach about 67 million gallons, but the demand seems to have increased even more from the new flexibilities that allowed people to work for themselves.

Throughout 2019 the shortage of the product became a constant and for the Christmas holidays it became a real headache to try to buy beer. In most stores, each customer was limited to between six and ten units, but that did not prevent crowds and fights to buy it.

In November, beer was one of the products that motivated the avalanche of customers that practically assaulted the Plaza de Cuatro Caminos. At that time beer was one of the products going through a shortage crisis in the capital, a situation repeated this March.

Josué, a young musician who entertains evenings in a small state bar in Old Havana, has been out of work for several days because “there is no beer and that scares away the customers.” In the area near the cathedral “only the most important hotels and restaurants” now have the product and, in most cases, foreign brands,” he explains.

Some entrepreneurs point to capped prices as part of the causes of the current shortages. “They regulated prices but did not increase production and this is the result,” laments the owner of La Casita, a private cafe that offers pizzas, hamburgers and snacks in the municipality of Playa. “We had to remove beer from the menu because we cannot guarantee its availability.”


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.