Xmas Table Pork in Cuba Made in USA

and the beans from Mexico

The Cuban pork lacks flavor because of the animal’s poor diet. (14ymedio)

By Circles Robinson

HAVANA TIMES — There is no doubt that the 60-year US embargo on Cuba has forced the Communist Party government to find other markets for both imports and exports, often less favorable than dealing with their neighbor only 90 miles away under normal conditions.

However, the embargo has exempt food purchases for around two decades, just like it does with medicines. The problem for Cuban state importers, the only ones allowed, is hard currency to pay for the products. Under the embargo, Cuba has no credit options for its purchases from US suppliers.

The island’s failed agricultural policies which promote dependence on imports instead of national production baffles those that visit the country and see so much fallow land and know that Cuba’s agronomists and farmers have a wealth of knowledge that could lead to food security someday, maybe by the hundredth anniversary of the revolution. For now, consumers must depend on farmers from “the enemy” and other countries.

There lies a terrible irony. While the Cuban government complains about the effects of the US embargo, once again this year much of the food on the island’s Xmas tables will come from the United States and other countries.

Another irony is that Cuban agronomists, both on government-to-government exchanges and on their own, are helping production in several other countries seeking to improve their food security and even exports.

What I once heard where I was working in Havana, during nationwide meetings called in 2008 by then President Raul Castro to give people a rare opportunity to express their concerns sums things up. Someone asked: When are the agronomists we see on TV going to start working in Cuba?  It brought a roar of laughter, and everybody knew exactly what the person was talking about.

A report from 14ymedio

So that brings us to the matter at hand, this years Christmas tables amid a tremendous national shortage of the most basic food products.  The Havana based independent daily 14ymedio reports on the situation.

“Pork legs from the United States, milk from Spain and Mexican beans. At the tables of Cuban families, imported products outnumber the number and quality of the few foods that come out of the nation’s fields and industries. Simply writing “imported” next to an offer to makes customers feel more confident and seduced.” And often they don’t even have a choice like with the beer from Spain or sugar from France.

In the case of pork, the national favorite meat, producers can’t get the feed they need to have a healthy production.

“Pork takes on the flavor of the food you give the animal,” says El Pana, a pig producer from Alquízar, in Artemisa, whom 14ymedio has tracked since he started in the sector until he ended up, last year, dismantling his corrals, tired of not getting feed and affected by the entry restrictions to Havana due to the pandemic.

“When I was able to get fishmeal and the animal spent its fattening time eating that, then you threw a steak in the pan and it seemed that it was frying claria,” he says. “People have lost their reference and don’t even remember what pork tastes like, but I’ve been in this business for many years, and I know when a pig ate garbage and when they gave it something else.”

“In the fat and meat of the animal a lot of what it has eaten accumulates, as soon as you cut a leg or a shoulder blade, you can notice it by the tone of the upper. Imagine when you put it to cook, all that smell comes out and fills the house. I cannot sell what I myself would not eat, and here feeding a pig correctly is impossible.”

In El Pana’s opinion, this is one of the motivations for opting for the imported product, for those who can afford it. “You realize that they are younger pigs, because they managed to reach the weight for slaughter in the time it should be and not like it happens here that, as it does not have feed, time passes and the animal is still skinny. You can’t slaughter that way.”

Often the frozen chicken that Cubans wait in long lines to buy comes from abroad, from the US and South America, as the local industry is almost extinct.

“Not to mention chicken, it’s been a long time since almost everything has come from abroad,” acknowledges the producer. “Here in the area surrounding Alquízar we had several poultry farms, there is nothing left of that. Even the roofs and fences have been stolen little by little,” the pig farmer told 14ymedio.

While in many countries there is an increase in movements favorable to local commerce, which favors local products, in Cuba consumers with the money to do so are opting for imported food. Local consumption is barely concentrated in some produce, seasonal fruits, and vegetables, but with the rise in prices in recent months, sometimes a canned or frozen product is cheaper, notes 14ymedio.

“A pound of beans is above 90 pesos ($3.75 USD) when you can find it,” Victor Manuel, a retiree who frequently visits the agricultural market on San Rafael Street in Havana told 14ymedio. “To give it flavor, I must buy just a little chorizo ​​or bacon, as well as add onion, garlic and other seasonings. When I take out an account, a fabada — bean stew — for my wife and for me comes out at more than 180 or 200 pesos.”

“My son, who lives in Miami, buys me cans of Asturian bean stew through stores and on the internet, which cost less than four dollars each. My wife and I eat with two without going back and forth to the agri-market and without so much mess with the pressure cooker. Cheaper and it has nothing to envy compared to what I could do in my kitchen with what little there is.”

“Before, at Christmas, almost everything that was eaten was from here, though perhaps the nougat or cider came from elsewhere, but now the table looks like the United Nations,” jokes Víctor Manuel. “What does not come from Mexico, comes from New Zealand. Crazy.”

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

15 thoughts on “Xmas Table Pork in Cuba Made in USA

  • Let’s be clear: the US government does not sell pork to Cuba or any other country for that matter. Private, repeat PRIVATE, Us companies are exempt from the embargo and can sell to the Cuban government or whomever they please. Cuba is free to buy from whomever they choose to buy from as well. It’s called the Free Market.

  • Anti Imperialist,
    I’ve never suggested that there are the same sabotage attempts and attacks from the USA as there were decades ago. Clearly this was of a different era.
    These days there is the attempt to strangle Cuba’s economy and the attempt to restrict the freedoms of US citizens to travel where they choose and spend their own money as they see fit.
    This seems primarily with a view to achieving FLA Electoral College Votes. This is due to the perceived influence of certain peoples in Miami.
    This would seem to be abundantly clear to me.

  • Nick we are in agreement that the Cuban government should work towards the food security they haven’t come close to acheiving in 62 years in continuous power. Maybe after 100 years of the same government, with absolutely no accountability, they wlll acheive it.

    We also agree that the US has a history of hostilities against the Cuban government in different manifestations, some deadly. So, since you believe the US and its CIA are up to the same hostilties as in the first decades of Fidel’s rule, is the only explanation to the government buying from the declared enemy country instead of other markets, taking the health risks, the ability to buy cheap low quality food products? Or is it they no longer see the same threat as you do?

  • Anti Imperialist,
    I have spoken to people in Eastern Cuba who rear pigs and who recalled having to slaughter their livestock at the time of the swine flu problem. They won’t ever forget that episode. The theories at the time were that this was one of many US sabotage attempts. Certainly not the most bizarre. There were reports in U.S. press at the time which backed this theory up. This sorry episode has not been forgotten in Cuba but came back to international prominence relatively recently when one of those whistleblowers (or traitors as some call them) leaked hitherto secret documents mentioning the CIA as the route of this attempt to rid Cuba of their main source of protein.
    One of these whistleblowers was jailed in the USA .
    They wish to extradite another so they can jail him too. Some would describe these people as political prisoners. But as I say, others would use the term traitors. The same polemic occurs regarding various people who are currently in prison in Cuba.
    Either way, to try and introduce a disease into a neighbouring country is a complete disgrace. Of that, there can surely be no argument.
    My take is this:
    Cuba’s traditional Christmas Dinner is pork. They can import it from wherever the f**k they wish to import it. U.S. meat exports are often cheap because they can be of uncertain quality. Some U.S. meat product is banned from Europe due to being deemed unfit because of the cosmetics and chemicals involved in its processing not being compliant with the more exacting European standards. But this stuff ain’t gonna kill anyone. Unless that’s all you ever eat. Some of the aspects involved in meat processing are actually a very good argument for vegetarianism.
    As I have said on countless occasions, Cuba could and should be food self sufficient. This is what this Cuban Government or any subsequent Cuban Government should be looking to achieve as soon as they can. That way lies some kind of economic salvation.
    That would be my take on this topic since you kindly ask.

  • Nick, I used to think the swine flu sabotage was true like numerous other sabotage and assassination attempts. However, the Cuban government’s decision to buy pork, chicken or other food from the US producers is strange at best if they really fear the evil intentions of their declared enemy, whose intentions they say haven´t changed in 62 years. What’s your take on this?

  • Noddy,
    What you saying?
    You believe the CIA denials?
    You think it appeared out of thin air?

  • “previously the USA attempted to introduce a deadly strain of swine flu there just a few decades ago?”


  • Anti Imperialist
    As is often the case, you miss the point.

  • Nick, the irony (I would say absurdity) is that the Cuban government companies, the only legal importers of such products, would want to buy from companies based in the country (USA) that committed such sabotage. There is nothing ironic about the US companies wanting to sell wherever they have a market.

  • Anti Imperialist,
    Regarding your 3 key points.
    Your first 2 are entirely correct although they do perhaps state the obvious.
    Your third point is an absolutely key question.
    Cuba should not be dependent upon any other country for food whether that’s the USA or anywhere else. Cuba has the potential to be pretty much food self sufficient.
    They need to make be some dramatic changes in the agricultural sector. I have made this point on many occasions here on these comments pages.
    So would you agree that it is somewhat ironic that pork is now being exported from the USA to Cuba when previously the USA attempted to introduce a deadly strain of swine flu there just a few decades ago?

  • Chas, yes the urban gardens are a good thing for those that get some food from them. They are a very partial answer to the problem. The other millions of Cubans are a different story. I hope your wishes are correct, maybe after 100 years of the same government half or more of Cuba’s food will be grown on the island.

  • Nick you forgot to mention three key points.
    Firstly the US doesn’t sell pork, they are private exporters from the US who are allowed to sell to Cuba despite the embargo.
    Second, The Cuban government is the lone importer for the island. They can choose the “low quality” product you mention or buy somewhere else. It’s their choice, the US isn’t forcing them to buy from their exporters.
    Three: why depend on your sworn enemy for basic food?

  • And yet the lush vegetable gardens that surround apartment buildings are cared for by the people who live in those buildings and are a testament to the agricultural abilities of the Cuban people. Those urban vegetable gardens are a striking sight to Americans. Cubans are highly resourceful people. They’ll work out their food problems.

  • USA meat product is difficult to export to Europe because it doesn’t necessarily comply with EU standards. Much of this is to do with the chemicals and cosmetics which are permitted within US production which are banned in other parts of the world.
    Therefore the USA is keen to find as many outlets as possible.
    It’s ironic that the USA exports pork to a Cuba, a country where the USA previously tried to introduce swine flu.
    Perhaps this is a sign of progress.
    The USA sending pig meat of dubious quality to a country to which it previously tried to send pig disease.

  • I am sure the party leaders and their friends will not have to worry about where their food comes from at Christmas while the people they say they represent eat the scraps that fall off the tables.
    Disgraceful regime sooner gone the better for the Cuban people and it’s future

Comments are closed.