Cuba Imports Salt from Spain to make up for National Deficit

Vicente Morin Aguado

Imported salt from Spain.

HAVANA TIMES — Some hard-currency retail stores in Havana are selling Auchan-brand (supermarket) salt imported from Spain. A one kilo bag sells for 0.60 Convertible Pesos (CUC). This is the best product of its kind that the Cuban population have access to, who have been suffering salt shortages in stores which sell items in regular Cuban pesos (CUP).

From Contramaestre (the main town in the municipality which shares the same name in Santiago de Cuba province), we were able to summarize the following after having spoken to several female workers and housewives:

“Here, we have the rations booklet and we get a packet of salt every 3 months because we are a family of four.” Is it enough? “Of course it isn’t, I turn to street vendors who pass by selling it by the pound, which is a full condensed milk can approximately (the label says 390g) which I buy for 5 pesos (CUP).” Is any extra salt being sold on the State’s free market? “No, but when it does appear, it’s bad quality, mixed with sand and stones, dirty. Nobody can cook with that.”

It’s hard to explain but in Cuba, basic distribution of chemically named sodium chloride (NaCl) for human consumption, is rationed by the kilo depending of the number of people living in a household, differentiating between urban and rural areas.

In cities, families of 3-4 and 5-6 consumers (the majority) should receive two 1 kg bags every trimester in the first case and three packets over the same time period in the second.

For some strange and inexplicable reason, the regulation is broken in Contramaestre, where it’s over 20,000 inhabitants make it a city according to Cuba’s National Office of Statistics. There, salt is distributed according to the rations assigned to rural areas, just 1 kg per family each 3 months, not taking anything else into account. Where are farmers supposed to be getting salt from exactly?

Traveling to Guantanamo, the only province in Cuba with two salt mines and where production is the greatest in the country with 85,000 tons, other women tell us (the men excused themselves because they were unable to give us the information we needed):

“I’ve been buying liberated salt because the other one (rationed) isn’t enough. They give us only one packet because we are a family of 3, every three months.” Note that the government also considers a city with 200,000 inhabitants as a rural area.

The interviewee repeated and added: “At least have salt in stores now, I got a packet last month for this trimester and then I had to buy a liberated 1 kg packet for 5 pesos (CUP). It’s not bad, it’s pretty decent and they sell it where you can buy non-rationed rice, sugar and other products.”

Salt being in shortage in this eastern city would be the icing on the cake.

In the capital, salt distribution via the food rations booklet is regular, we can say that according to the bureaucratic jargon, distribution is “prioritized” in Cuba’s window to the world, Havana. However, non-rationed salt selling in regular pesos has been missing for months now, which is in high demand because the rations quantity isn’t enough, even more so when you bear in mind the increasing demand for salt as a result of private food establishments.

Domestic salt sold on the ration booklets.

The only option is to buy it in the dollar equivalent Convertible Pesos (CUC), an irregular offer because you can find salt in some stores but it’s missing in others. Locating sea salt, when shortages are inexplicable in the Caribbean’s largest archipelago, there are two options:

Sal Caribbean, nationally produced, 1 kilo for 0.45 CUC and the abovementioned imported Auchan-brand salt which sells for 0.60 CUC for the same quantity, both of which are fine and a brilliant white, especially the Spanish salt.

Cuba had planned to produce 180,000 tons last year (16 kg per inhabitant), while Spain produces 3.9 million tons (84 kg per inhabitant). Our country’s coastline is equal to 47% of the perimeter of Spain yet salt extracted from the sea in Cuba is only 5% of Spain’s total salt production.

When writing this article, valuable data relating to our country’s productive organization was taken from an article published on May 8th in Granma newspaper, written by Susana Anton. I completely agree with the following readers’ opinion:

How many technical regulations aren’t met in Cuba. I’m sure the percentage of rocks and organoleptic properties of salt can be resolved. A lot of the time, the salt sold to the population doesn’t meet all the standards it should, there’s also a lot left to be desired aesthetically. I find myself asking why salt being sold from the rations has to be different to the salt being sold in the government’s hard-currency stores.

Vicente Morin Aguado [email protected]

8 thoughts on “Cuba Imports Salt from Spain to make up for National Deficit

  • I have to say that I don´t know Latin American to compare qualities of life, I suppose that it is the region you mean, but, why that region?
    We all live in the same world, how is our life standard compare with Canada? Did Canada do a socialist Revolution to achieve that standard?
    Do Canadians enjoy freedom of thinking, speech, movement, economy, health and education because we don’t? Have you have the same government for 60 years? The same government that kept his nationals away from hotels for decades, the same government that do not allow my wife to travel?

    Can you at least imagine a quality of life of a family earning less than 50 dollar per month? Do you call quality that we Cubans are equally pours?

    I really can’t imagine how a person that do not live in Cuba can believe than they have a clue of how difficult is Cubans day by day, I do not deny your right to have an opinion, but it is my opinion that you must live like a Cuban to actually apprehend what it means, Cuba is too different to the rest of the world so while you can imagine how is Colombia visiting Venezuela or Brazil, to know Cuba you have to come and to live or at least watch closely Cubans real life

  • Methinks Mr. Fenby that you have but little knowledge of the life of the average Cuban. Maybe you spent a couple of weeks in Varadero. To describe “one of the best qualities of life” is a nonsense. Yes, there are other countries in the region in which poverty exists, with Haiti being the worst. But to describe the repressive dictatorship as providing “quality of life” is misleading in the extreme. The UN gives 2 dollars per day per capita as the minimum poverty level. The average Cuban worker receives under US$21 per month, only 5.2 million of the population of 11.1 million earn, which provides the average Cuban (men women and children) with about 33 cents per day.
    Of course the defenders of communist dictatorship who contribute to these pages will respond by the talking of the usual educational/ medical services. To understand the purpose of the first, read the Cuban Constitution which states that the purpose of that education is to instill communism, and for the second, profitable farmers in the free world provide veterinary services to keep their herds in good condition as that makes them more profitable and the Cuban regime follows a similar policy with its “mass”.
    The purpose and intent of communism is to create a proletariat (frequently referred to as “the mass” – read Dr, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara) which will accept the power and control of the Dictatorship.
    Yes, the people of Cuba are in general welcoming and helpful. But the current politics you refer to are being re-enforced. What hope can you offer to my Cuban God-daughter? When do you think that she will be able to enjoy the freedoms which you as a Canadian enjoy daily?
    Pause just for a moment and reflect upon the old saying: “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
    The repression in Cuba is not necessarily evident to those who visit as short-term tourists, for they are not subject to the CDR, MININT and the possibility of a visit to Villa Mariska where confession inevitably follows. Just reflect upon the fact that Cubans are subject to the fourth highest level of incarceration in the world, with dissent being a major factor.
    You Mr. Fenby refer to Moses Patterson having “a general hate-on for the political rulers”. Moses knows Cuba well being married to a Cuban, spending long periods there and helping to support his Cuban family. In my case I am married to a Cuban and my home is in Cuba. Could it possibly be Mr. Fenby that our knowledge of the reality of Cuba is somewhat greater than your own? In these pages, I openly express my detestation of dictatorship and in particular that communist dictatorship in Cuba which you suggest provides “best qualities of life”.
    You as a Canadian have the right to vote as you choose for different political parties, you can openly and without fear express your views about your different levels of government, be they Federal, Provincial or Municipal. You have access to information from around the world through a wide range of sources, Cubans have no such privileges!
    To get a fuller political picture I humbly suggest you read my book “Cuba Lifting the Veil”. I am not suggesting that you ought necessarily to agree with my views, merely that you will have a fuller understanding of the various facets of life in Cuba under the dictatorship.

  • Moses they managed to destroy 250 years of profitable sugar cane industry, now Bacardi is doing much more money that all Cuban sugar cane industry, that is so sad. as you say Viva la Revolución, and I add y los Castros.

  • It is an structural problem, I always say Cuba don´t have an economic problem, we have a political problem that needs political changes, that is why I get so furious with those who defend an improvement inside Castrism, there is not real benefit or real rights without real democracy, without freedom of association, freedom for thinking, talking, moving, freedom of press and real elections.

    Without that structural change all improvements inside Castrism are a fake, incidental and immoral.

    That is what we as people should pursuit and not just partial changes as to obtain permission to import modern cars, or the currency unification.

  • They should have come to us in Canada. We have enough salt to spice the whole planet for generations to come, and indeed, have so much, we use it to melt the ice on our roads in the winter. Moses is right in this one tiny instance for pointing out that most countries surrounded by the ocean don’t usually have this problem. However, his general hate-on for the political rulers is somewhat misplaced, as Cuba still enjoys one of the best qualities of life in the region except for the English-speaking Caribbean and Costa Rica. Perhaps he’d prefer nearby islands where people get by with a grade 2 education (if that) and a plethora of disease and malnutrition? The Cuban people are amongst the nicest and considerate I’ve met anywhere and that bodes well for the future, despite the current politics.

  • How one wishes that only salt is in short supply. Cuba also purchases canned tomatoes and coffee from Spain among a multitude of other products including marmalade. The coffee isn’t produced in Spain, but purchased from Columbia and Brazil and then packed in Spain. Little Holland which is smaller than Cuba and feeds over 17 million of its own people, is another beneficiary of Cuban incompetence, selling them a long list of food products, once again including marmalade made from imported oranges.

  • Tropical Surrealism. An island importing salt from continental Europe. I wonder if that the “Bloqueo” fault or just incompetence. And by the way. How they were able to buy abroad when there is an Embargo?

  • Here we go again….yet another example of Cubans screwing over Cubans. Cuba is an island surrounded by salt water. Are you kidding me? Cuba can’t refine its own high-quality salt in quantities sufficient to meet national need. Salt? Viva la revolution!

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