Nutrition and Coronavirus in Cuba

Line to get into a supermarket in Havana.  Will there still be chicken?  Photo: IPS Cuba

Cuban families face a number of challenges staying fed, including the choice to stay at home or go out on the street to try and purchase needed food items

Por IPS Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – “I didn’t want to go out on the street… but eggs arrived at the store and those are essential,” commented Amelia Martinez, 58, one of the many Cubans who alternate between the recommended social isolation and activities to guarantee food during the pandemic.

When they get home, they need to follow stricter norms in handling the food, norms that families are beginning to learn, together with the better known recommendations to wash hands frequently, avoid touching your face and maintain distance from other people to avoid the spread of the new Coronavirus.

Food Security and propagation of the virus

With 119 confirmed Covid-19 infections and three deaths as of March 27, the topic of nutrition concerns both the population and the Cuban authorities, who have recognized that the lines to buy food are one of the main causes of crowding.

The scarce availability of things to buy has worsened since the end of 2019, as the reinforced US blockade on external trade added to problems caused by the country’s economic limitations and insufficient local food production.

Among the measures adopted by the national authorities in the current situation are increased rationing and encouraging the elaboration of food products to go in the networks set up for getting food to the most vulnerable and low-income sectors.

In some territories, following international examples, priority for purchase of bread is given to the older adults, while in other places the police are charged with keeping order in the lines and having people maintain a safe distance.

Another of the alerts put out by the national authorities is avoiding a rise in food prices.  To do so, they’ve called on the population to denounce anyone trying to line their pockets from the dangerous pandemic.

Faced with an insufficient food supply, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has called on the agricultural sector and the food industry to rapidly increase their production, a process that is complicated by restrictions on the purchase of inputs and by fuel limitations.

Products to be rationed once again

Amid the Coronavirus epidemic, bath and washing soap, toothpaste and detergent are some of the articles that are once again to be rationed through the booklet that Cubans maintain, following years of being available on the open market.

Interior Trade Minister Betsy Garcia stated on the “Informational Round Table” television program on March 27 that the measure is being adopted to guarantee the equitable distribution of food and cleaning products, including sodium hypochlorite, a bleaching agent, be it as controlled or as regulated items.

She informed that in April, consumers would receive through the rationing booklet one additional pound of chicken at an unsubsidized price, and 10 ounces of peas, as well as tubers and vegetables.

To guarantee the production of the private sector, they’ll be able to acquire inputs such as flour and eggs.

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3 thoughts on “Nutrition and Coronavirus in Cuba

  • One of the undisclosed reasons for evicting all the tourists was to extend the food supply. The call by President Diaz-Canel to the agricultural and food industry to rapidly increase their production which has been steadily declining for many years with the ever-increasing necessity to import food (now at 80%) is indicative of his ignorance of reality. Maybe he should confer with Machado Ventura and ask about the sugar production and why in 2019 it hit a new low – despite all those visits to the plants, shuffling around in his hard hat.
    As for addressing the needs of “the most vulnerable and low-income sectors”, that covers most of the population. Suggesting that everyone will get an additional pound of chicken when they are not getting the basic amount is ridiculous. Where is the chicken going to come from? Normal supplies from the US are likely to reduce rapidly as Covid 19 takes its toll there.
    An increase in black market activity is inevitable.
    My daily contact with family in Cuba is giving me ever-increasing concern. The regime is firmly embedded in Alice’s Wonderland. Will the ever increasing girth of Bruno Rodriguez and Diaz-Canel come to a halt or even reverse, or will they continue to live on the tiny fat of the land?

  • Yes, the Cuban government economicly caused shortages certainly impedes attempts at social distancing. That is indisputable.

    The Cuban governments words continue to ignore basic economic principles. Giving anyone a greater slice of the economic pie always means someone else is going to get a smaller slice. There are only two ways around that. 1) repeat the biblical miracle of the loaves and the fishes. Or, 2) increase the size of the economic pie. That is only possible by some abandonment of the concept of a government centrally controlled economy. I sadly see the chances of that currently to be nil.

  • I am always amused and amazed that these days only the most uninformed Castro “lamabotas” dare to comment on HT articles written about the Cuban realities such as this year’s food shortages. Hard to blame the shortage of potatoes on yumas, I guess.

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