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The Cuban government pays the US a record amount for chicken, but families still face shortages

The new system of rationed distribution of this and four other basic products in Havana suffers from a 'lack of availability'.

La Habana
Information on the sale of chicken via rationing books at a bodega in Havana.
Information on the sale of chicken via rationing books at a bodega in Havana. Diario de Cuba

Last November, the Cuban government paid US producers a record amount for the purchase of chicken meat, and the recently concluded 2022 was the second year of increased importation by Havana of this product which, despite the numbers, continues to be scarce on the island.

"November 2022 registered (an) all-time record figure for chicken meat exported by the United States to Cuba: $32.06 million. It was a 'good month' for U.S. exporters, with extraordinary increases of 56% in value exported and 70% in tons supplied," reported economist Pedro Monreal on his Twitter account.

"Even without the data for December 2022, it was already the second best year (after 2021) for U.S. chicken meat exports to Cuba, both in value and tons," he added.

In Monreal's view, this is "one of the best case studies of the ineffectiveness of Cuba's agricultural policy.

"The per-kilogram value of U.S. chicken exported to Cuba in November 2022 ($1.18) was 8.5% lower than in October ($1.29), though it remains at relatively high levels," the expert specified.

"The price reduction may have favored the November surge, offsetting the drop in October,'" the economist noted.

Exports of chicken meat from the United States to Cuba saw a drop in October (20.54 million dollars and 15,980 tons), which coincided with the massive lines that Cubans had to wait in to acquire one of the few proteins they have available to them.

Despite the embargo, Cuba became the 55th market for U.S. agricultural and food exporters in September among more than 200 countries that make such purchases, after U.S. sales to the island were up 88.2% from August.

In November, U.S. congressmen traveled to the island to meet with Cuban farmers and local authorities, with whom they discussed the current state of Cuban agriculture and the food supply, but no agreements were reported in the official press.

Still not enough chicken for all Cuban families

This weekend Havana's State Directorate of Commerce admitted problems with the new controlled distribution system for the sale of five basic products, including chicken, to the capital's population.

A statement quoted by the official Cuban News Agency stated that "due to a lack of availability, the first sales cycle has not been completed in all municipalities."

According to information reported by the official newspaper Granma, "the CIMEX chain of stores plans to conclude the first stage of commercialization on January 10, with chicken, mincemeat and oil. In the case of sausage and detergent, it will be finalized later."

"The pending locations will be fully covered for the first cycle. For the second cycle, up to five kilograms (kg) of chicken, two packages of mincemeat, one package of sausages, one liter of oil and 1 kg of detergent will be offered, depending on their composition," he added.

"Tiendas Caribe completed the first cycle of sales at the locations linked to its establishments, which allowed it to begin the second cycle in the municipalities of Old Havana, Regla and Central Havana; and in the coming days it will continue progressively in the rest of the districts; this amid criticism by Cubans for the chaos it has caused in many businesses.

This system was implemented on December 1, 2022 in Havana, which allows the population to buy chicken, mincemeat, oil, sausages and detergent in a rationed manner at Tiendas Caribe stores and the CIMEX chain.

The sales model, which requires the buyer to present their rationing book, a ticket, ID and even a signature for a food module, was a mess at stores such as TRD Caribe located in Calzada de Vento and Avenida de Acosta, Cerro.

The newspaper Tribuna de La Habana recently cited "disorganization, disorder, misinformation and many other things," at this state-owned store. These incidents, according to complaints from the readers of the official media source, were repeated at most of the stores included in the system.

Shortage problems in Cuba, inherent to a political and economic system where illegalities and corruption abound, remain unsolved. The measures adopted from one day to the next end in failure, as the populace's agony grows.

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