Cuban Minister of Commerce Blames Shortages on Import Dependency

Thursday, May 23, 2024 by Sophia Martinez

Betsy Díaz Velázquez, Cuba's Minister of Domestic Trade, stated that the country "depends entirely on imported products," addressing the shortages in the rationed goods sold to the population and acknowledged setbacks in distributions similar to those in previous years. Díaz Velázquez, who appeared on the Mesa Redonda program to discuss the distribution of the regulated family basket, did not offer much encouraging news to consumers.

Regarding public opinion on the availability of rationed products amid a food acquisition crisis, the Minister affirmed that the process is slow. "We had six ships in operation at different ports in the country. They need to be unloaded and then transported to the provinces, sometimes involving cabotage to certain territories. The goods are transported to the municipalities and then to the local stores," she explained, also highlighting the impact of the fuel shortage in the country.

Distribution Discrepancies Across Provinces

It's noteworthy that the distribution of rationed food does not occur uniformly across the different provinces in the country. "The situation is not the same in all provinces. We have finished April's rice. When we move to May's supply, some provinces like Cienfuegos, Sancti Spíritus, and Villa Clara have already completed the distribution for that month. However, this is not the case for others such as Pinar del Río, Artemisa, Mayabeque, Havana, and Matanzas, which have not finished yet, even though they do have the product. The distribution process in these areas will take a few more days," she pointed out.

She also revealed that the current energy crisis is affecting the distribution process. "It should be noted that transporters from various organizations and entities, including agriculture, Azcuba, and private carriers, are involved. But there are days when there is no fuel. Sometimes, power outages affect processes like weighing and invoicing," she added.

The minister acknowledged that for many years, "until 2020 or 2021, products were available in the stores on the first day of the month, but we have lost that. We lost inventories, coverage, and we are now dependent on imports."

However, the Minister’s justifications for the delayed or missing rationed food items in Cuba are not new. Last October, she attributed the absence of peas in Cuban stores to the weather in Canada. "We were in a period from January to May when the rivers in Canada freeze, and they cannot export. These are dynamics the population is unaware of, forcing us to substitute with beans or peas," she said on the same Mesa Redonda program. Her remarks turned into fodder for memes on social media, where Cubans mocked her "reasoning."

FAQs on Cuba's Import Dependency and Food Shortages

Given the ongoing issues related to Cuba's dependency on imports and the resulting food shortages, here are some frequently asked questions and their answers to provide more insight.

Why does Cuba depend so heavily on imported products?

Cuba's agricultural sector is underdeveloped and faces numerous challenges, including lack of resources, outdated technology, and restrictive policies, making it difficult to produce enough food domestically.

How does the fuel shortage impact food distribution in Cuba?

The fuel shortage hampers the transportation of goods from ports to provinces and municipalities, delaying the distribution process and causing inconsistencies in the availability of rationed products.

What measures is the Cuban government taking to address food shortages?

The government is attempting to manage the situation by importing goods and involving various organizations and private carriers in the distribution process. However, systemic issues and resource limitations continue to pose significant challenges.

© CubaHeadlines 2024

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