Cuban Press Admits Discontent over Bread Scarcity

Many Cubans are forced for weeks at a time to give up coffee, meats, and now bread

The rationed bread rolls, what used to be a mainstay in the Cuban diet. Photo: Periódico Cubano

The Communist Party’s Cubadebate publication notes that last month the government recognized there was a flour shortage affecting bread production.

By 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES — The scarcity and high price of bread in Cuba are so evident that the official press once again dedicates ample space to the subject this Wednesday. In a report that paraphrases “Our father, Our bread… every day?” Cubadebate criticizes the fact that the product is not even guaranteed in the ration book, the “basic basket.”

To “clarify the doubts of the population on the subject,” the media claims to have sent a request for information to the Ministry of Food Industry on August 31, which hasn’t been answered. “Although we’ve insisted on several occasions, at the time of writing this report, they were still ’processing the request.’ Meanwhile, the discomfort in the population persists, and bread appears less and less and is more expensive,” says Cubadebate.

The publication recalls that last month the Havana government recognized that there was a shortage of flour that affected the production of bread, but said it would be guaranteed in “the normal family basket,” prisons, hospitals, orphanages, nursing homes and psychiatric hospitals, as well as for the Cuban Bread Chain.

[Under the Cuban government’s more than half century of rations, each person is supposed to be able to buy a small bread roll daily at a subsidized price.  But not even that is guaranteed any more. To purchase bread outside the rations the price is exorbitant for people without money coming in from abroad or some other source of foreign currency.]

Faced with the numerous comments on Cuban networks, Cubadebate reached a conclusion confirmed for weeks by 14ymedio: “Bringing this food to the table has become an odyssey for Cubans, once again.”

“Several of those interviewed for this report and the readers of Cubadebate agree that not only is the quality of the product bad, but sometimes they don’t even manage to buy the quota of bread assigned per family nucleus in the bodegas (ration stores), something that should be guaranteed,” the article states.

The media also regrets the high cost of food: “In a quick tour of several non-state bakeries in Havana, it can be seen that the price of a bag of bread costs between 150 and 200 pesos, as does a package of cookies. And the worst thing is that it happens right in front of the decision makers. Is the lack of flour and wheat a reason to exorbitantly raise prices?”

The problems aren’t limited to the capital, the official website emphasizes, but spread “at the national level.” This newspaper, for example, testified that in Sancti Spíritus, due to the deficit of wheat flour, state bakeries are adding up to 20% of rice husk residue to the dough, a mixture that makes it sour and gives it a sandy texture.

Just for Sancti Spíritus, without mentioning the information in this newspaper, Cubadebate brings up the statements given to the Escambray newspaper by an official who said that “there is no justification for private businesses to continue raising the price of a package of cookies and a bag of bread,” and that “the self-employed or the small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) must have documentation that certifies or endorses the legal origin of the raw material used in the manufacture of such products.”

And, despite its criticism of the authorities, Cubadebate distributes blame to the private sector and the “resellers,” who “wake up in the bakeries and take almost all the product.”

In this regard, they cite an angry customer: “The private bread is from the state bakeries that make the standard bread. How? By taking the bread out of the basic basket. That’s why it doesn’t have the weight, no fat and turns black in 24 hours. It’s a lucrative business.”

The commentator doesn’t mention the many private businesses that buy flour online or the individuals who import it. Or the SMEs that have denounced the Government’s obstacles to importing flour independently, as a group of Sancti Spíritus bakers told 14ymedio at the end of August.

Translated by Regina Anavy for Translating Cuba

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