By Paula Henriquez

Photo: IPS

HAVANA TIMES – I wake up like any other day, thinking about sorting out a few everyday things, now that Time isn’t my biggest setback. I look at my vegetable shelves and realize that, apart from an eight-legged creature here and there- desolation has taken over and that it has just become another piece of decoration in the house.

As root vegetables help to keep your tummy full, I grabbed my purse and decided to go to one of the nearest sales points where prices… what’s happened to prices? I went to another one and they were even higher.

But… how long have I been asleep? Is the question that pops into my mind. Things can’t have changed so much overnight. There’s no way that two root vegetable and plaintain stalls, just a block away from one another, have such different prices.

This story about agro-market produce plays on repeat, over and over again. The only thing that does change every time is that small little changes (which are always negative) become awfully time-consuming.

Add to the current situation the fact that the owners of the produce let their imaginations wander when it comes to setting prices for their products. It isn’t a co-ordinated effort, but something that is done individually, depending on the owner’s imagination, of course.

Some are real pioneers in the art of handpicking and setting prices, making inspectors or even the Ministry of Finances and Prices in this country, look bad.

The above isn’t just a problem that has appeared now with the recent pandemic that has swept the globe. Not at all. The country’s highest authorities have talked about this issue on many occasions and have reached the conclusion of the need to fix prices, which now are up to four times what the farmer sells for to the intermediary.

Nevertheless, we carry on without seeing any positive changes, but the exact opposite instead.

Today’s gold isn’t extracted from mines or dredged up from our rivers. It is born in the land with the sweat and hard work of our farmers. I’m not criticizing them. I believe that their work in the fields is a lot harder and poorly paid, by a longshot. I am talking about people who buy products so they can resell them. I am talking about these small street vendors who quadriple their investments in a swift movement, taking advantage of other people’s needs.

A good thing to tackle this evil that has hit the domestic economy, would be to connect or articulate state-run agro-markets with farmers directly, bringing down prices currently set by speculators. I say “articulate” because I don’t believe that whatever is being sold in the state run agro-markets comes from the same farms where other products for everyday consumption are grown. Not in terms of quality or variety.

I do not agree with the government centralizing all of national trade and services, but if I’m sure about anything, it’s that small and medium-sized businesses can provide a living and help others. The thing is that this work needs to be in keeping with the reality that we live and try and to exist in line with supply-demand. In the end, we are all just crew members on the same boat that is hoping to get ahead.


Paula Henriquez

Paula Henriquez: Since childhood I have been told I should be careful what I say in public. "Think before you speak, especially in front of others," my mother would say, and it was more of a plea than a scolding. Even today I hear her and I obey her, just that I do not speak, I write. Letters and words are my escape, my exit and daily catharsis, which printed on paper, revive me. And this picture is my refuge.

3 thoughts on “Today’s Gold in Havana

  • Brenda Durdle is spot on regarding Air B&B’s entry into Cuba. Existing casa particulars were well serviced by agencies like cuba-particular.com and all that B&B did was to increase charges, so that by booking through them, casas that normally charged 25 CUC per room per night, had prices increased to 40 CUC. Best avoided!

  • So-called ‘middle men’ are the bain of capitalism. I worried about this same issue when Air B&B came to Cuba, taking a cut of the fee out of the country for themselves. I hope Cubans can find ways to do co-operative gardens or that they can do some neighbourhood gardens and share the labor. Take care.

  • I heard that.

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