Onion Tears

Danae Suarez

Onions have disappeared from the market.

A good while ago the Cuban government did the right thing by prohibiting small independent farmers from continuing to sell onions for 15 pesos (US 0.75) a pound.  The step was taken after determining that this price was well outside the budget of the average Cuban family.   And they were right!

However what the majority of Cubans don’t know is what measure the State will take to make up for that needed food item.

Markets with price controls (small markets that supply the State) cannot assume this demand.   The answer is provided by the response to a simple question by a sales employee: “Onions?”  This is because there haven’t been any onions sold for quite some time, nor are there plans to sell them.  The only ones that exist are in refrigerators and those grown by small farmers.”

For their part, small farmers have already taken measures.  Their revenge consisted of taking onions off the agricultural market.

Trying to submerge myself in “a thing in itself,” as Kant would say, I headed off to the “agro” (agricultural market) at 42nd and 19th in the capital city’s Playa neighborhood.

The lack of onions in agros has generated a desperate demand for these vegetables “at any price.”

There I could see for myself that no one had put onions out in front of their stands.  However, when I asked where I could buy some, the vendors immediately indicated to me, hush-hush, that there were a couple of guys who —thanks to the State’s restriction— were now running the risk of selling them for 30 pesos a pound: twice the previous price.

As a result of that prohibition, the lack of onions in agros has generated a desperate demand for these vegetables “at any price” – a situation that the most risk-taking farmers are taking advantage of to the fullest.

“The problem is that onions are out of season,” they respond when asked why these are so expensive.

Others merely shrug their shoulders while saying, “I don’t know why there aren’t any onions, baby; but I have avocados for five pesos apiece.

As for me, relying on my honed distrustfulness, I have to ask myself if the farmers taking onions off the market was naive or simply a boomerang that —as always— has come back to wallop the consumers in the head.

3 thoughts on “Onion Tears

  • Of course. Julio believes in the “God market” so hard he couldn’t even understand what Danae had to say in her article. It is the so-called “invisible hand” of the informal market that’s keeping the onion price sky-high. Commerce must be regulated, and it is, even in the most developed “free market” economies. But your neo-classical economic reasoning will never understand it.

  • I can’t imagine living a life without having onions in my refrigerator especially one where my life would be so completely controlled by a communistic regime. I know that we are not without controls from our government but at the very least we are free to choose to eat something if we want to.

  • Danae
    While it is true that 15 pesos a pound maybe too high a price for Cubans I believe the Cuban government should have not intervened and let the market work.
    The dilemma for the farmers is if they do not sell their products will be spoil soon so they by themselves would have decrease the price or maybe some people are able to afford the onions at that price.
    By letting the market work it would have created the economical stimulus for other potential producers of onions to produce it. and therefore the price would have eventually come down. By the government messing around the free market they ended that stimulus since now a potential producer will think twice since he will not be able to recoup the investment he puts upfront in money and work to produce the onions.

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