Friday, December 9, 2016

Cuba's Tourism Boom Is Causing Food Shortages

Cuba's Tourism Boom Is Causing Food Shortages
Privately-owned restaurants are gobbling up the country's vegetables
by Brenna Houck@EaterDetroit Dec 8, 2016, 12:30pm EST

The warming of relations between the United States government and Cuba
this year created a boom in tourism for the island country. Cruise
liners traveling from Miami began docking in Havana in May and the first
commercial flight from the U.S. to Cuba in more than 50 years landed in
the island nation on November 28. But not everyone is seeing the
benefits from a growing number of foreign visitors.

The New York Times reports that food in Cuba is becoming scarce and
expensive — in part due to the massive growth in tourism. In a country
where supplies were already scarce, Cubans are now seeing their onions,
green peppers, and avocados get gobbled up by privately-owned
restaurants catering to travelers.

State-run markets in recent weeks have reportedly been sold out of items
like tomatoes, lettuce, and pineapples while the more loosely regulated
co-op markets that sell to restaurants are well-stocked with vegetables,
herbs, and spices. "Almost all of our buyers are paladares [private
restaurants]," says co-op vendor Ruben Martínez. "They are the ones who
can afford to pay more for the quality."

The number of privately owned restaurants has grown sharply over the
last five years thanks to free market reforms ushered in during 2011.
Prior to that, restaurants were strictly state-owned and operated. Where
once there were only 100 restaurants there are now more than 1,600 on
the island.

Privately-owned operations are also experiencing barriers to purchasing
ingredients for menus. With no wholesale purveyors or bulk-buying
options in Cuba, everything must be purchased at market rate. It's
further complicated by the fact that the government doesn't recognize
private restaurants in a way that allows owners to import ingredients or
equipment from abroad.

According to the Times, the Cuban government has made moves to curb the
growth of Havana's restaurant industry by pausing the issuing of
licenses in the city, though some argue that doesn't resolve the real
problem. "It's true, the prices keep going up and up," says Laura
Fernandez, manager of the high-end restaurant El Cocinero. "But that's
not just the fault of the private sector. There is generally a lot of
chaos and disorder in the market."

Source: Cuba's Tourism Boom Is Causing Food Shortages - Eater -

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Cuba's Surge in Tourism Keeps Food Off Residents' Plates

Cuba's Surge in Tourism Keeps Food Off Residents' Plates

HAVANA — For Lisset Felipe, privation is a standard facet of Cuban life,
a struggle shared by nearly all, whether they're enduring blackouts or
hunting for toilet paper.

But this year has been different, in an even more fundamental way, she
said. She has not bought a single onion this year, nor a green pepper,
both staples of the Cuban diet. Garlic, she said, is a rarity, while
avocado, a treat she enjoyed once in a while, is all but absent from her

"It's a disaster," said Ms. Felipe, 42, who sells air-conditioners for
the government. "We never lived luxuriously, but the comfort we once had
doesn't exist anymore."

The changes in Cuba in recent years have often hinted at a new era of
possibilities: a slowly opening economy, warming relations with the
United States after decades of isolation, a flood of tourists meant to
lift the fortunes of Cubans long marooned on the outskirts of modern

But the record arrival of nearly 3.5 million visitors to Cuba last year
has caused a surging demand for food, causing ripple effects that are
upsetting the very promise of Fidel Castro's Cuba.

Tourists are quite literally eating Cuba's lunch. Thanks in part to the
United States embargo, but also to poor planning by the island's
government, goods that Cubans have long relied on are going to
well-heeled tourists and the hundreds of private restaurants that cater
to them, leading to soaring prices and empty shelves.

Without supplies to match the increased appetite, some foods have become
so expensive that even basic staples are becoming unaffordable for
regular Cubans.

"The private tourism industry is in direct competition for good supplies
with the general population," said Richard Feinberg, a professor at the
University of California, San Diego, and specialist on the Cuban
economy. "There are a lot of unanticipated consequences and distortions."

There has long been a divide between Cubans and tourists, with beach
resorts and Havana hotels effectively reserved for outsiders willing to
shell out money for a more comfortable version of Cuba. But with the
country pinning its hopes on tourism, welcoming a surge of new travelers
to feed the anemic economy, a more basic inequality has emerged amid the
nation's experiment with capitalism.

Rising prices for staples like onions and peppers, or for modest
luxuries like pineapples and limes, have left many unable to afford
them. Beer and soda can be hard to find, often snapped up in bulk by

It is a startling evolution in Cuba, where a shared future has been a
pillar of the revolution's promise. While the influx of new money from
tourists and other visitors has been a boon for the island's growing
private sector, most Cubans still work within the state-run economy and
struggle to make ends meet.

President Raúl Castro has acknowledged the surge in agricultural prices
and moved to cap them. In a speech in April, he said the government
would look into the causes of the soaring costs and crack down on
middlemen for price gouging, with limits on what people could charge for
certain fruits and vegetables.

"We cannot sit with our hands crossed before the unscrupulous manner of
middlemen who only think of earning more," he told party members,
according to local news reports.

But the government price ceilings seem to have done little to provide
good, affordable produce for Cubans. Instead, they have simply moved
goods to the commercial market, where farmers and vendors can fetch
higher prices, or to the black market.

Havana offers stark examples of this growing chasm.

At two state-run markets, where the government sets prices, the shelves
this past week were monuments to starch — sweet potatoes, yucca, rice,
beans and bananas, plus a few malformed watermelons with pallid flesh.

As for tomatoes, green peppers, onions, cucumbers, garlic or lettuce —
to say nothing of avocados, pineapples or cilantro — there were only

"Try back Saturday for tomatoes," one vendor offered. It was more of
question than a suggestion.

But at a nearby co-op market, where vendors have more freedom to set
their prices, the fruits and vegetables missing from the state-run
stalls were elegantly stacked in abundance. Rarities like grapes,
celery, ginger and an array of spices competed for shoppers' attentions.

The market has become the playground of the private restaurants that
have sprung up to serve visitors. They employ cadres of buyers to scour
the city each day for fruits, vegetables and nonperishable goods,
bearing budgets that overwhelm those of the average household.

"Almost all of our buyers are paladares," said one vendor, Ruben
Martínez, using the Cuban name for private restaurants, which include
about 1,700 establishments across the country. "They are the ones who
can afford to pay more for the quality."

By Cuban standards, the prices were astronomic. Several Cuban residents
said simply buying a pound of onions and a pound of tomatoes at the
prices charged that day would consume 10 percent or so of a standard
government salary of about $25 a month.

"I don't even bother going to those places," said Yainelys Rodriguez,
39, sitting in a park in Havana while her daughter climbed a slide. "We
eat rice and beans and a boiled egg most days, maybe a little pork."

Mrs. Rodriguez's family is on the lower end of the income ladder, so she
supplements earnings with the odd cleaning job she can find. With that,
she cares for her two children and an infirm mother.

Trying to buy tomatoes, she said, "is an insult."

Another mother, Leticia Alvarez Cañada, described what it was like to
prepare decent meals for her family with prices so high. "We have to be
magicians," she said.

The struggle is somewhat easier now that she is in the private sector
and no longer working for the government, she said. She quit her job as
a nurse to start a small business selling fried pork skin and other
snacks from a cart. Now she earns about 10 times more every month.

"The prices have just gone crazy in the last few years," said Mrs.
Cañada, 41. "There's just no equilibrium between the prices and the

While many Cubans have long been hardened to the reality of going
without, never more than during what they call the "Special Period"
after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a new dynamic that has emerged
in recent months threatens the nation's future, experts warn.

"The government has consistently failed to invest properly in the
agriculture sector," said Juan Alejandro Triana, an economist at the
University of Havana. "We don't just have to feed 11 million people
anymore. We have to feed more than 14 million."

"In the next five years, if we don't do something about it, food will
become a national security issue here," he added.

The government gives Cubans ration books to help provide staples like
rice, beans and sugar, but they do not cover items like fresh produce.
Tractors and trucks are limited and routinely break down, often causing
the produce to spoil en route. Inefficiency, red tape and corruption at
the local level also stymie productivity, while a lack of fertilizer
reduces yield (though it keeps produce organic, by default).

Economists also argue that setting price ceilings can discourage farmers
and sellers. If prices are set so low they cannot turn a profit, they
argue, why bother working? Most will try to redirect their goods to the
private or black market.

"From the point of view of the farmer, what would you do?" asked Dr.
Feinberg, the California professor. "When the differentials are that
great, it requires a really selfless or foolish person to play by the

Paladares sometimes go directly to farms to buy goods, and even provide
farmers seeds for specialty products that do not ordinarily grow in
Cuba, like arugula, cherry tomatoes and zucchini.

Most acknowledge that they distort the market in some ways, and this
year the government stopped issuing licenses for new restaurants in
Havana. But some restaurant owners argue that it is the government's
responsibility to create better supply.

"It's true, the prices keep going up and up," said Laura Fernandez, a
manager at El Cocinero, a former peanut-oil factory converted into a
high-priced restaurant. "But that's not just the fault of the private
sector. There is generally a lot of chaos and disorder in the market."

On the outskirts of Havana, Miguel Salcines has cultivated a beautiful
farm. Rows of tidy crops stretch toward the edge of his modest 25 acres,
where he employs about 130 people.

Though he grows standard products on behalf of the government, there is
no product he is more excited about than his new zucchini. A farmer for
nearly 50 years, he had never grown the crop before, but planted a batch
two months ago.

Now, the vegetables are coming into shape, the spots of bright orange
flowers visible amid the green plumage. He knows this crop is not for
the regular market, or for the government. It is like the arugula he grows.

It is for the tourist market and, by extension, the future.

"We are talking about an elite market," he said. "The Cuban markets are
a market of necessity."

Hannah Berkeley Cohen and Kirk Semple contributed reporting from Havana,
and Frances Robles from Miami.

Source: Cuba's Surge in Tourism Keeps Food Off Residents' Plates - The
New York Times -

Cuba Is Trying Price Controls To Deal With Food Shortages

Cuba Is Trying Price Controls To Deal With Food Shortages
Tim Worstall , CONTRIBUTOR
I have opinions about economics, finance and public policy.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

So, it may be that Fidel Castro is now justly and righteously dead,
given the pain and grief he imposed upon Cubans, but it appears that
economic knowledge in the government is still just as sketchy as ever.
The influx of tourists into Cuba is putting yet more strain upon the
indigenous food supplies. And given that Cuba produces little that the
outside world wants to purchase, there's not much foreign currency to
then buy food from off the island.

There are a number of useful solutions to this problem. Using some of
the dollars the tourists are spending to buy food from off the island
being one of them. But what is not a sensible solution is to impose
price controls upon food. And it's not just that it's a not sensible
solution, it's not a sensible solution, actually and in fact precisely
the opposite of what is needed. This is not some great mystery here,
this is not some recondite corner of only the most advanced economic
textbooks. This is something that is there right on page 1 of all the
introductory courses, that famed diagram of the supply and demand curves.

But still that's what they're doing:

President Raúl Castro has acknowledged the surge in agricultural prices
and moved to cap them. In a speech in April, he said the government
would look into the causes of the soaring costs and crack down on
middlemen for price gouging, with limits on what people could charge for
certain fruits and vegetables.

"We cannot sit with our hands crossed before the unscrupulous manner of
middlemen who only think of earning more," he told party members,
according to local news reports.

But the government price ceilings seem to have done little to provide
good, affordable produce for Cubans.

Well of course price ceilings won't do any good. They're exactly the
wrong thing to be doing.

Think of our little chart, those supply and demand curves. The demand
curve slopes down and to the right. The supply curve up and to the
right. What does this tell us about what to do when there is a shortage?
Yup, if there is a shortage of something then we want the price to rise.
Because that stimulates more people into supplying that good that we've
a shortage of.

What do we want to happen then there's a food shortage? We want food
prices to rise. What is Cuba doing in the face of a food shortage?
Preventing prices from rising. That is, in the face of a food shortage
the Cuban government is banning the one single action which will solve
the food shortage.

Source: Cuba Is Trying Price Controls To Deal With Food Shortages -

El hambre es cosa fea

El hambre es cosa fea
CUBAENCUENTRO continúa esta sección, cuyo tema central es lo que se
podría catalogar de "memorias de la revolución"
Eloy A. González, Fort Worth | 08/12/2016 12:06 pm

Hoy voy a escribir sobre el hambre. ¿Qué es esto y por qué? El hambre
precisamente es la sensación que indica la necesidad de alimento. El que
escribió esta exacta y breve definición en nada ha conocido del hambre.
¿Y por qué traer este tema? Ayer leía una noticia sobre el Chad, un país
árido y paupérrimo del norte de África donde las mujeres salen en la
mañana a procurar los alimentos para sus hijos y buscan con destreza y
afanosas los hormigueros que están debajo de las baldías arenas del
desierto. Cuando los encuentran, escarban de manera meticulosa evitando
perder aquello que de manera tan laboriosa las hormigas han almacenado.
Se trata de unos dos kilogramos de granos, que les pertenecen a las
hormigas, pero que ellas toman para macerar y mezclar con agua y aceite,
si es que tienen aceite, y con eso alimentan a sus hijos.
"El hambre es cosa fea, sí que lo es". Repetía aquel campesino con el
que compartí más de una jornada en el desbroce de un cafetal que
intentábamos recuperar. "Juan Calandria" cada día tomaba como referencia
una frase para ir sentenciando una y otra vez y sustentar sus escasos,
pero sabios argumentos. "El hambre es cosa fea" decía. Eso sí, a él
había que verlo dando cuenta de un plato de ajiaco. Cercano al medio
día, cuando apenas si habíamos despejado un par de yardas, el miraba al
sol y decía: "Está haciendo hambre". Entonces hacíamos un alto en el
trabajo para comer, si es que para aquel acto se podía usar tal apelativo.
Tener hambre es la cosa primera que se aprende. En la Cuba de los años
60 más de una vez vi de cerca el hambre, pero fue precisamente en el
primer año de estudios de Medicina y en aquel fin de semana de trabajo
"voluntario" que llegué a comprender lo compleja que es la sensación de
Habíamos llegado al campamento el mismo viernes; antes en la Escuela de
Medicina nos había dado una "merienda fuerte" que consistió en unas
galletas, pastas en salsa de mayonesa y un refresco que le llamábamos
"la guaripolita". Así que llegando y a trabajar unas horas
acondicionando el Campamento. En la mañana del sábado comenzamos el
trabajo fuerte en el campo a la espera de que llegara el desayuno a pie
de surco. Nada. Seguimos las labores, aquello se trataba de una tarea de
la Revolución y nosotros, pues "éramos hombres de Patria o Muerte". Pero
en algún alto del trabajo preguntábamos por la comida que no llegaba,
pasada las horas del medio día no llegó nada y se dio la orden de
regresar al campamento.
Un hombre con hambre es un a hombre agotado, aunque se dice "enojado", y
allí éramos cerca de medio centenar de hombres agotados, sudorosos y
enojados a la espera de algo con que mitigar las casi 24 horas de
obligado ayuno. Fue entonces que ocurrió "el milagro de los panes y el
azúcar". Alguien acarreó un sucio saco de azúcar prieta donde había
apenas unas 10 libras en el fondo. Todos se abalanzaron sobre el saco y
alcancé a coger un puñado de azúcar que puse rápido en el jarro de
aluminio y diluí con el agua que sí estaba disponible. No apuré la
solución, la puse cerca de mi mochila. Unos minutos después otro
empleado del campamento llegó con una caja de cartón con panes, apenas
alcanzaba para dos docenas de personas; alguien golpeó la caja que salió
por el aire con los panes. Por un momento llegué a creer que los panes,
que se hicieron voladores, descendieron multiplicados y uno de ellos
cayó tan cerca como para alcanzarlo de inmediato y correr para evitar la
"arrebatiña". Eran panes elaborados hacía varios días, algunos duros y
mohosos, pero eran un manjar delicioso dada las circunstancias. Bien se
dice que "a buena hambre no hay pan duro", pero allí estaba el jarrito
de agua con azúcar para suavizarlo. Nadie puede ser sensato con el
estómago vacío, pero aquella tarde alguien dio la orden de regresar a La
Habana, seguro que había comido.
Durante los días de la Zafra del 70, estaba en la parte oriental de la
Isla, en aquel campamento, "Las 44", de unos 180 hombres dispuestos a la
dura labor del corte de caña; más de una vez vi el hambre en aquellos
rostros curtidos por el trabajo y tiznados en los campos de caña
quemada. Llegaban al comedor para muchas veces no encontrar apenas
alimentos. El fornido cocinero con quien compartía horas de conversación
viajaba hasta el pueblo más cercano a buscar los huesos en el Matadero;
con esos huesos grandes y blancos, carentes de carne pero si con
tendones y grasa, hacia un abundante cocido humeante y negruzco al que
agregaba, si tenía, algunas viandas, arroz y agua una y otra vez a
medida que iban llegando los cortadores desde el campo. Se vencía así el
hambre con aquel caldo gris y algunas galletas ranciosas que aún
quedaban en los escasos sacos del almacén. Formábamos parte del
Contingente Lenin, y con este nombre, sí el del "viejito que inventó del
hambre", nuestro contingente estaba preparado para los más grandes
Desde esos días hay más de una anécdota que nos hace recordar los días
del mal llamado "Periodo Especial en tiempo de Paz", esto en los 90; que
dejaré para próximas entregas o para sazonar alguno que otro artículo,
de esos que salen como así.
También hay barrigas satisfechas, al menos así creemos. Viviendo en el
país del bienestar, encantándonos con esto de la comida al alcance,
variada y abundante y de la comida que aquí llaman "chatarra". Es bueno
saber que el hambre se hace distante. Saciado lucho yo, parafraseando al
poeta español que bien dice: "hambrientamente lucho yo". Prueben a
brindarle a las mujeres "hormigueras" del Chad esto que aquí llamamos
con desdén "comida chatarra".
Desde que rompe el día acompañamos los primeros pensamientos con una
humeante y escasa pero fuerte taza de café negro y aromático, al que
sigue el cereal que es casi ceremonia de avena y miel. Secuencia de
alimentos unos saludables y otros menos, que termina en la noche con una
manzana rebanada con deleite e ingerida despacio. No, no hay hambre, esa
cosa fea.
Hace unos años encontrándome en una ciudad de la frontera sur, ciudad de
contrastado bienestar, y a la espera de una invitación para comer en un
conocido restaurante; justo cuando esperaba en aquel estrecho, pero
agradable salón de espera, una mujer en los 50 llegó hasta mí para
pedirme dinero para comer. Estaba en la frontera sin dinero, deportada y
con hambre. "No tengo", le dije, y se dio media vuelta para caminar por
el espacioso parqueo.
Tenía en mi bolsillo unos 150 pesos, no mucho pero sí suficiente para
mitigar el hambre, así que corrí detrás de ella y logré alcanzarla casi
cruzando la calle y le entregué el dinero que llevaba. Regresé al
restaurante donde di cuenta de un abundante plato de tostadas, fajitas
humeantes guarnecidas de cebollas, frijoles refritos, arroz, guacamole y
una jarra de agua de Jamaica. Tuve una buena digestión.

Source: El hambre es cosa fea - Artículos - Cuba - Cuba Encuentro -

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Derrame de aguas albañales en restaurante Habanero

Derrame de aguas albañales en restaurante Habanero
[05-12-2016 18:07:13]
Mario Hechavarría Driggs

( Un derrame de aguas albañales de los
restaurantes Los Nardos y El Asturianito, está contaminando el entorno
de la calle Prado.
El salidero proviene de la tubería conductora de residuales de ambos
restaurantes ubicados en la calle Prado # 563, del municipio la Habana
Vieja. Las aguas con mal olor corren por la acera llegando hasta la calle.

"La peste que hay aquí molesta los que vienen a comer a este lugar,
también a nosotros que vivimos en los alrededores, decía una señora
llamada Emilia Beatón Gonzales, vecina de Prado 567.

Un camión de Servicios Comunales trató infructuosamente de destupir las
tuberías. Pero el chofer del camión, llamado Gerónimo Cruz, le explicó a
los trabajadores de Los Nardos que hay había que cambiar toda la
conexión porque a su parecer, las redes estaban partidas.

"La administración deberá invertir dinero para que este problema se
resuelva pronto, sino tendrán que cerrar. Si viene una inspección de
Salud Publica va a multar a la administración y tendrán que abrir para
el nuevo año.

José Luis trabajador de "El Asturianito", dijo que el problema se iba a
resolver pronto. El dueño de este lugar está decidido en arreglar el
problema, y abrir los restaurantes antes de que termine el 2016.

Source: Derrame de aguas albañales en restaurante Habanero - Misceláneas
de Cuba -

La Habana importará carne de res colombiana y paraguaya

La Habana importará carne de res colombiana y paraguaya
DDC | La Habana | 6 de Diciembre de 2016 - 14:50 CET.

La Habana autorizó la importación de carne bovina deshuesada, productos
lácteos y cárnicos en conserva, cocidos y ahumados de Colombia, anunció
el Ministerio de Agricultura del país sudamericano este lunes, según
recoge el portal de Bogotá

También firmó similares acuerdos con el Gobierno de Paraguay, para la
importación de carne bovina, porcina y de aves, según un anuncio del 29
de noviembre del Ministro de Relaciones Exteriores de Asunción, Eladio

Se comprarán, además, carne separada mecánicamente, madurada y
deshuesada, y cortes especiales.

Entre junio y septiembre, las autoridades cubanas realizaron una visita
de inspección y reconocimiento en los establecimientos interesados en
exportar a la Isla.

Los voceros del Gobierno de la Isla aseguraron que los establecimientos
paraguayos y colombianos cuentan con las condiciones constructivas y
sanitarias exigidas por La Habana y que, igualmente, en todos se
encuentra implementado un sistema de trazabilidad que permite
identificar los productos desde la granja hasta la comercialización.

Dentro de los requisitos para la exportación de los productos
mencionados, se encuentran que los bovinos faenados en los frigoríficos
procedan de animales nacidos, criados, engordados y explotados en
Colombia y Paraguay; y que arriben a Cuba con toda la documentación
establecida, lo que permita un adecuado proceso de rastreo.

El Ministerio de Agricultura de la Isla manifestó que Colombia y
Paraguay presentan una situación zoosanitaria favorable en las especies
animales más relevantes y además disponen de laboratorios oficiales
suficientes, que garantizan el diagnóstico inmediato de las enfermedades
emergentes, según lo establecido por la Organización Mundial de Sanidad

En la actualidad, el Gobierno cubano compra productos cárnicos
principalmente por medio de licitaciones periódicas. Brasil ha sido el
principal proveedor cubano en los últimos años, según dijo el ministro
paraguayo de Exteriores.

En 2015, La Habana importó carnes por un valor de 242.000 dólares, que
fue destinada mayoritariamente a la industria hotelera y de turismo.

El pueblo cubano no puede consumir este producto libremente que no se
encuentra al alcance de su mano y, a veces, ni siquiera pagando precios
excesivos en las tiendas en divisas o en el mercado negro.


Source: La Habana importará carne de res colombiana y paraguaya | Diario
de Cuba -

Pobladores de Palmarito de Cauto opinan sobre la carne de res