Nonsensical Stores

By Daisy Valera

Currently, in Cuban stores that accept hard currency, you can find ample quantities of nationally produced goods; products from tomato puree and perfumes, to shampoo, soap and Kool-Aid – that are made here on the island.

In these stores you also find imported products. But what jumps out is that much of the imported merchandise is cheaper than their equivalent Cuba brands!

Take for example a two-liter bottle of Coca-Cola. In some stores this sells for $1.55 CUC, though a liter and a half bottle of TuCola (its Cuban knock-off) goes for $1.45 CUC.

Baguio natural fruit juices imported from Argentina also sell for less than locally-made juices.

What happens with soap is also an interesting issue. One can more often find a two-bar packet that costs $1.30 CUC than the less expensive brand that most people use, which sells for $0.35 CUC each. (1 CUC = US $0.80)

Isn’t it easier and more important to produce the cheaper, more popular brand?

Whenever I walk by these stores’ front counters, where candy is sold, I can’t keep myself from asking the same question: How much does it cost the Cuban government to buy candy abroad if this is a commodity that is bought wholesale?

I don’t have the answer to this question, but I do know that the cheapest candy sold in Cuba goes for the same price as it does in the countries from which it is imported; only that in those countries the wages are many times higher than ours.

The same situation exists when we look at the price of clothing and shoes.

In short, these stores are becoming a challenge to my imagination. I still don’t find it logical to produce goods that are sold at higher prices than those that are imported, or that we first produce more expensive items and then the necessary ones.

To me, the logical approach would be to buy wholesale in order to reduce the purchasing cost, thereby allowing a lower sales price for the consumer.

But it seems that things don’t work this way, and I truly do not know how the economy of my country functions, but nor do a slew of others who ask these very same questions.

As a future worker I would like to have access to this information. My understanding is that “socialist” Cuba is advancing toward a planned economy where the workers are the ones who are supposed to have constant control, given what their work represents to the country, and that these investments are the fruit of their labor.

Daisy Valera

Daisy Valera:Soil scientist and blogger. I write from Mexico City, where Havana sometimes becomes so small that it disappears. However in others, the Cuban capital is a city so past and present that it steals your breath.

3 thoughts on “<em>Nonsensical Stores </em>

  • Marce, your response doesn’t respond to Daisy central point: why are Cuban goods of comparable quality sold at higher prices than imported goods in hard currency stores? The obvious consequence would be to discourage local production as price-sensitive consumers purchase the lower priced imports instead.

  • There is no harm in asking those logical questions to the very store managers. They will tell you they don´t know the answers but that´s the way a grass-root state of opinion gets to the top of the pyramid 🙂
    Inteligent young people like you will make the difference, but remember: always keep cold blood 🙂

  • The hard currency stores were opened during the Special Period, when the collapse of Soviet trade led to a sharp decline in the black market exchange rate of the Cuban peso. In 1993 the exchange rate fell to 150 peso to the US dollar. To revalue the peso against the dollar, the Cuban government reluctantly opened the hard currency stores. In the mid 1990s the only Cubans who received hard currency were those with relatives abroad; the self-employed; workers in tourism who received tips in foreign currency, and some workers in joint ventures with foreign investors; and those involved in theft and corruption. By selling goods in the hard currency stores at relatively high prices, the government was able to redistribute some of these dollars.

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