The Cuban government announced on Friday, May 10, that it’s launching widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic products in the face of a grave economic crisis.
Commerce Minister Betsy Diaz Velazquez told the state-run Cuban News Agency that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with shortages of staple foods.
She blamed the hardening of the US trade embargo by the Trump administration.
Economists give equal or greater blame to a plunge in aid from Venezuela, where the collapse of the state-run oil company has led to a nearly two-thirds cut in shipments of subsidised fuel that Cuba used for power and to earn hard currency on the open market.
“We’re calling for calm,” Diaz said, adding that Cubans should feel reassured that at least cooking oil would be in ample supply. “It’s not a product that will be absent from the market in any way.”
Cuba imports roughly two thirds of its food at an annual cost of more than $2 billion and brief shortages of individual products have been common for years. In recent months, a growing number of products have started to go missing for days or weeks at a time, and long lines have sprung up within minutes of the appearance of scarce products like chicken or flour.
Many shoppers find themselves still standing in line when the products run out, a problem the government has been blaming on “hoarders.”
“The country’s going through a tough moment. This is the right response. Without this, there’ll be hoarders. I just got out of work and I was able to buy hot dogs,” said Lazara Garcia, a 56-year-old tobacco-factory worker.
At the Havana shopping center where Garcia bought her hot dogs, cashiers received orders Friday morning to limit powdered milk to four packets per person, sausages to four packs per person and peas to five packets per person.
Manuel Ordonez, 43, who identified himself as a small business owner, said the new measures would do nothing to resolve Cuban’s fundamental problems.
“What the country needs to do is produce. Sufficient merchandise is what will lead to shorter lines,” he said.
Limited rationing of certain products has already begun in many parts of the country, with stores limiting the number of items like bottles of cooking oil that a single shopper can purchase.
The policy announced by Diaz appears to go further and apply the same standards across the country of 11 million people.
The Cuban economy crashed with the fall of the Soviet Union and plunged the island into a more than decade-long period of misery and hunger that ended with the arrival of subsidised Venezuelan oil in the early 2000s.
The latest shortages and rationing appear to mark the end of a phase of relative prosperity but conditions are nowhere close to the deprivation of what is known as Cuba’s “special period.”
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