Tourism Industry to Get Tomatoes but Cubans Will Have to Wait until February

Private vendors charge at least 150 pesos for a pound of tomatoes. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 January 2024 — Rain and planting delays are conspiring to keep tomatoes out of Cienfuegos’ produce markets. At least that is the excuse provided on Monday by local officials, who readily admitted that tomatoes destined for tourist hotels and specialized food service establishments are grown year round in the controlled climate conditions of the Guamuhaya mountains, guaranteeing their availablility. Meanwhile, everyone else will have to wait until February.

Jesús Negrín Capote, the province’s director of agriculture, told the digital newspaper 5 de Septiembre (Fifth of September) that, despite the “climatological slippage,” a lot of tomatoes managed to get planted, even more than in the previous campaign. Though production is expected to be ready for the second and third month of the year, he noted that crops are not immune to the weather, which can “play tricks.”

Negrín Capote acknowledged that the quality of the tomatoes was also affected by the sudden rains at year’s end because the planting, which was scheduled for September and October, happened late.

Tomatoes grown by private producers, or taken from the “back room” of government warehouses, are beginning to appear sporadically in local markets

Meanwhile, tomatoes grown by private producers, or taken from the “back room” of government warehouses, are beginning to make sporadic appearances in local markets. Though always stunted and green, they command high prices.

Fifth of September reports that the price at state-owned stores is always the same, no matter the quality. The cost of second, third and fourth-class tomatoes is set at 50 pesos a pound, “as though they were first-class.”

Given this situation, private vendors, who know that they have a better product, think nothing of stockpiling the state tomato in order to resell it for 150 pesos a pound or more. “In short, the limited availability of tomatoes in produce and open-air markets — not to mention the involvement of the state, cooperative farms and peasant farmers — results in very unfair competition,” summarizes the paper, adding that the consequence is “diminished buying power for consumers.”

The paper proposes stepped-up controls to prevent price gouging by individuals who hoard the product

The paper proposes tightening controls to discourage price gouging by individuals who hoard the product. It blames them for the shortage because rural farmers prefer to sell their tomatoes to private businesses and street vendors, who pay a higher price than the state.

An article published last March in the state-run digital news site Invasor described the collapse of the island’s tomato industry. Compared to 2010, the acreage under cultivation in 2023 had doubled but production had fallen twenty percent.

In 2021, producers in Sancti Spíritus province, who were alarmed by prospect of losing the crop, called upon government officials to harvest the tomatoes before they rotted in the field. Unfortunately, Acopio, the state agricultural procurement agency, never responded

Along with a shortage of supplies and fuel, governmental apathy has caused one of the most popular products on Cuban tables to vanish and its price to skyrocket. In December 2023, the cost of tomatoes increased by 15.53% according to the Consumer Price Index published by the Cuban National Office of Statistics and Information.


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