HAVANA TIMES – Insults and many, many shouts among the tumult, this was the scene on Tuesday morning in front of the El Exquisito de Fornos market, in Neptuno and Marqués González, in Centro Habana. The reason? The sale of unrationed cigarettes, a product that has been in short supply for months and keeps smokers and resellers confronting the drop in sales in state markets.
“They put the chicken out for sale very early and the line was very calm, but when the cigarettes arrived, there was this aggressiveness, something that is very common here in the neighborhood because of cigarettes,” a resident from the capital neighborhood, who was trying to buy meat, told 14ymedio this Wednesday.
In El Exquisito de Fornos each person was allowed to buy only one package, which contains ten packs. They sold two varieties of H.Upmann: without a filter, at 245 pesos, and the Selecto, at 280, in addition to Popular Fuerte, at 210.
“Most of those you see there are not smokers. They buy and then resell,” explains another resident who lives in Neptuno, a few blocks from the market. “For example, the Popular cigarette package is resold on the street for 800 and 1,000 pesos and a single pack of H.Upmann costs up to more than 100,” he details.
Since the end of last year, the cigarettes that were sold freely, from the Popular, Aromas, Titanes and Criollo brands have disappeared from the network of state stores and cafes. The first to disappear were those that were sold in national currency, but the shortage also reached the supply that was for sale in foreign currency.
The government of the capital announced at the beginning of last July the sale of cigarettes in a regulated manner, in the rationed market, and specified that this point had been reached “due to problems with the availability of the raw material.” The measure was extended to the whole country a few days later and the head of the Ministry of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz Velázquez, explained that, although it is not a product that is part of the regulated family basket, its sale will be controlled, due to the “deficit of a monthly demand amounting to 37 million packs” to “avoid hoarding.”
Other officials from the ministry itself insisted that the “intermittences in production” are due to difficulties “with the arrival of raw materials in Cuba.” They explained that for this reason the volumes of this product available for sale do not ensure 100% of the country’s demand.