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Cuba evaluates measures to ease shortages
In face of these circumstances, the country is evaluating measures to mitigate shortages while, at the same time, organizational steps have been in place since this past Tuesday to prevent speculation and to guarantee more equal distribution.

These will not be times of markets overflowing with a variety of foods; in August, five million quintales (1 quintal=100lbs) of produce and vegetables were sold, while in September, that figure was just one million.

That statistic alone is enough to illustrate the current contraction of Cuban markets.

In that respect, Granma daily talked with Francisco Silva Herrera, deputy minister of domestic trade, about the supply-and-demand farmers markets (which today feature some regulated products).

In order to understand the magnitude of this question, Silva clarifies a few points.

From a physical standpoint, sales up until August in the supply-and-demand markets all over the country represented just 5.4% of the total, he said.

"The greatest concentration of products has always been in the state markets (MAE) and sales points (about 15,000 in total). There are only 164 supply-and-demand markets; in fact, some provinces only have one, such as Guantánamo, or three, such as Granma. The special municipality of the Isle of Youth has none. The largest number of these types of markets are in Havana, with 40."

The state is working to increase supply, but the trip from the fields to the sales counter becomes complicated, and more so when combating illegalities that were stimulating this supply in one way or another. The considerable losses that we have suffered are aggravating the situation.

Products must necessarily go to one type of market or the other. But it will take some time to be able to stabilize the supply that existed before. That is the biggest challenge.

During that time, we will have to be vigilant so that "other" markets are not created on street corners, homes and other places not designated for sales, where people violate prices and regulations. We will have to do combat. And the supply will have to be maintained, something that is now affecting our markets, Silva says.

Regarding that, the deputy minister said, alternatives are being proposed and solutions sought.

Some people who go to these establishments believe price limits are necessary and fair. Others have rejected the measure, alluding to losses, but it is not that they are losing; it is that they are going to earn less than what they had thought, because maximum prices are still high, Silva noted.

There is still much to do. There is disorder in the organization of sales; regulated prices are based on weight and sometimes products are sold by unit. A multidisciplinary group is touring markets daily to detect these and other violations. The Ministry of Domestic Trade’s department of inspection, auditing and cadres is reviewing measures to protect consumers. At the same time, each province has established a telephone line where customers can report irregularities and ask questions.

Beyond the control that the hurricanes’ aftermath has obliged us to intensify, the deputy minister warns about false expectations.

It would be difficult for a product to abound out of season, and there cannot be a normal situation in the markets after the immense damage left in agriculture. The little there is must be shared.

(Granma International)

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