The Sweet Potato Has Become a Luxury Product in Cuba

In Santiago de Cuba sweet potatoes are sold only through the ration book and only to people over 80. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Francisco Herodes Díaz Echemendía, Santiago de Cuba, 14 January 2021 — The scandalous prices, which have multiplied since the new measures that took effect on January 1, have reached Santiago de Cuba. And they have materialized in a traditionally cheap product, the sweet potato.

“Yesterday I went to the state agricultural market El Avileño in the center of the city and there were sweet potatoes on the stands. I was surprised that the police were not controlling the lines and everyone wasn’t shouting frantically to enter first in case the food runs out,” a man from Santiago tells 14ymedio.

“I went into the place, asked if the sweet potatoes were for sale and I was surprised by the employee’s response: the sweet potatoes are sold under the ration book and are for people over 80 years old. I asked him if he was joking and he said no, that was the order,” the resident said, still surprised.

For the man, who grew up in the country, the sweet potato “was always the food of guajiros, humble people and pigs.” Now, he adds, “it’s a luxury thing, it doesn’t appear and when you find it, it’s super expensive or rationed.”

The price of sweet potatoes about two years ago reached a maximum cost of 9 pesos. Of the little available this year, private merchants in Santiago de Cuba sell it for more than double that, and in other provinces, such as Cienfuegos, it is close to 30 pesos.

The indignation of the man grows even worse just a few minutes after leaving El Avileño. Walking about 800 meters down busy Enramadas street he enters another establishment where they are selling yogurt, cream cheese and some variants of cheese. He asks for the prices.

“Instantly the clerks clarify to me that everything that is sold there is only for children between 1 and 8 years old, and I have to present a ration book and an identity card,” he concludes indignantly.


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