By Pedro Pablo Morejon
HAVANA TIMES – Everybody here knows that rice is the main staple of the Cuban diet. Although somebody [President Diaz-Canel] ridiculously said that lemons are the staple. In reality, rice is the staple when it comes to food, at least for us.
There isn’t any rice today in the stores, or agro-markets that sell in Cuban pesos. It’s pretty much impossible to find outside out of the quota you’re assigned to buy as part of the rations booklet. Which isn’t even enough to feed you for 10 days.
If by some divine providence, you have the chance to buy rice, you have to pay between 15-20 pesos per pound. [This is almost the pay for a day’s work of many professionals, not to mention unskilled labor or pensioners.]
To make matters worse, heavy rains caused by Tropical Storm Eta, which swept through the center of the country and along the north-western coast. This has led to a harvest loss of this precious grain.
Rains flooded hectares, at least in the southern plains of Pinar del Rio. More specifically in the Consolacion del Sur and Los Palacios municipalities, where two industrial rice complexes are found. That destroyed rice stems that were soon going to be ready for harvest.
Recently, the Minister of Agriculture told the nightly show Mesa Redonda, that rice harvests had been affected across the country. This bodes a long period of shortages of this vital food, unless the government is able to import it.
Rice isn’t the only item in shortage
But rice isn’t the only thing in shortage nowadays, beans are also in shortage. Likewise root vegetables, plantains, meat, not to mention other vegetables. Markets in Pinar del Rio city have empty shelves.
My small town is just as miserable as it always has been. The two state-led stalls are empty and there’s another private stall that is sometimes closed. But when it has been open, I have only seen papayas, sweet potatoes for 4 pesos/lb and plantains for 2 pesos. More expensive than normal.
Pork or ham is around 50 pesos/lb. However, you can’t find anybody selling pork. You can only buy it after a lot of intelligence work to find out who has it, when and where. This is because the person selling it runs the risk of being fined and having all their product seized.
Sometimes, illegal sellers pass by my house, selling food items for an exorbitant price. Recenty, a lean old man, with a shaggy appearance, passed by selling garlic. I didn’t have any, so I called out to him. When I asked how much he was selling them for, he told me it was 65 pesos for the string, which only had some 13 small garlic bulbs on it.
Once in my doorway, he asked my wife if she had a shot of coffee. I don’t know whether I was moved by need or compassion, but I bought those garlics, just like some neighbors did.
I’ve been pretty worried recently. My rice was running out, I didn’t have enough for two more days.
Luckily, a miracle came. A friend of my wife’s parents just sold me 10 lbs at 12 pesos each. It’s very expensive but given current supply and demand, it was a gift.
I’m not exaggerating when I write that this alone has made these past few days the happiest this year. I have never been so stressed about food because I’m not one of those people fixated on it. However, the reality is that the noose is being tightened more and more every day in this country without a future.