By Enrique Torres (El Toque)
HAVANA TIMES – Cuban popular wisdom states that the price of pork is our Dow Jones index, the main indicator of the national economy’s health.
In Cuba, if there’s one thing that is the “basis of everything” it’s not lemons (although this price is inflated too), but pork. Pork prices going up and down, and to what extent, reflects the state of microeconomics of the family and a lot more. You can draw economic and sociological conclusions from the price of pigs and pork.
Just like any important national experience, the trauma of pork prices going up on the national market has sparked a wave of memes, since late 2021. Joking is a defense mechanism, resistance, and critique in Cuba.
Once the Reforms Process began in January 2021, pork prices have continued to go up. This has been the case for almost every product and service, but inflation has been especially deeply felt for pork.
Despite the never-ending economic collapse, Cubans have found a way to keep some traditions alive come hell or high water. Pork for New Year is one of them.
As the final days of December drew near, Cuban families began to go out and hunt down a bit of pork.
Shortages, the economic crisis, COVID-19, lack of fodder, corn, soy, the manufacturing crisis, US embargo, economic reforms that try and “organize”… These have been the many reasons the Government has given to explain why there isn’t enough pork available in Cuba.
But none of them are good enough because nobody “swallows” explanations on December 31st or ever. Nor will these memes work a miracle and help this meat Cubans long for appear at affordable prices.
The decline of pork production – the “star product” of Cuba’s livestock industry, as economist Pedro Monreal says – dates back to before the pandemic.
According to statistics from Cuba’s Office of Statistics and Information (ONEI), pork production grew steadily between 2007 and 2017. Then, there was a sharp drop. In 2020, Cuba produced 36% less pork than it did in 2017. The COVID-19 crisis made this problem even worse.
Many critics on social media point out an interesting fact: while pork is hard to find on the street, online stores continue to sell it at exorbitant prices, in foreign currency. On the popular site compraspacuba.com, a whole pig (between 45-50 kgs) costs over 440 USD; 2 kgs of chops sell for 24 USD and 2 kgs of lard (without frying), for 9.60 USD.
On top of this, pork prices going up have shot up the price of other products, leading to a domino effect, which can be clearly seen in the loss of the population’s purchasing power, whose wages aren’t increasing enough to compensate the price increase in goods and services. Once again, memes serve as an emotional outlet. They are like social therapy and, at the same time, a form of protest against the current situation. They seem to tell us: “We don’t have pork, but we have memes at least.”