The Cuban government announced Friday that it is 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 U.S. 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 subsidized 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.”
At the Havana shopping centre 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.
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.
Food stores in Cuba are government-run and sell products ranging from highly subsidized to wildly overpriced by global standards. Every Cuban receives a ration book that allows them to buy small quantities of basic goods like rice, beans, eggs and sugar each month for payment equivalent to a few U.S. cents.
Cubans with enough money can buy more of those basic goods at “liberated” prices that are still generally below the world average. At the highest of Cuba’s three tiers, brand-name goods from high-quality rice to fancy jams can be purchased for often two to three times the price in their country of origin.
Chicken will now be sold in limited quantities in every type of store — with cheaper chicken limited to 11 pounds per purchase and the more expensive variety capped at two packages per purchase.
Low-priced soap, rice, bean, peas and eggs will now only be sold in limited quantities per person and controlled through the national system of ration books.