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.
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.