HAVANA TIMES — Reports on shortages of personal hygiene products such as deodorant and toothpaste made their way to the front page of Cuba’s official newspaper Granma last week.
Noting complaints “spreading among the Cuban public these days”, the newspaper called on high officials of the Ministry of Industry (MINDUS) and Ministry for Domestic Trade (MINCIN) to account for the continuous shortages of hygiene articles in domestic markets, including establishments that sell products in Cuban pesos (CUP) and hard-revenue (CUC) stores.
MINCIN Vice-Minister Barbara Acosta and MINDU Vice-Minister Alvarez Martinez were present at the meeting convened for this purpose.
Deodorant Shortages till March
According to the report, domestic markets will not have a stable supply of deodorant until the month of March.
President of the Grupo Empresarial de la Industria Ligera (“Light Industry Corporation”) Roberto Cabrera Zamora stated there are no problems surrounding the manufacture of the product and that the raw materials needed to produce some 820 thousand units this month (and an additional 900 thousand in February) are already available.
The official stressed that, in 2013, the industry had planned the sale of 16,647,300 units of deodorant and that 15,961,500 units were ultimately delivered. A four percent productive deficit, however, was experienced near the close of the year, and sales in December and the first days of January have reflected this trend.
Toothpaste Production Goals Surpassed, but…
Cabrera also underscored that 89 percent of the shampoo units planned was produced during the year and that the industry superseded toothpaste production goals (116 percent), for a total of 430 tons of the product.
Consumers, however, are seeing something entirely different at stores as a result of serious distribution problems and the resulting shortages at sale points, shortages which MINCIN reports describe with the euphemism of “absence indices.”
Francisco Silva Herrera, director of MINCIN’s Wholesale Department, explains these “absence indices” as follows: “To calculate these, a group of sales points scattered across the country are taken into consideration. If the product in question isn’t available at 30 percent of the units visited, then we begin to talk about ‘shortages’.”
Silva pointed out that toothpaste products sold in CUC experienced “some fluctuations” and reached an “absence index” of 20 percent. Deodorant products reached a 22 percent “absence index.”
The official admitted that “the perception of consumers is accurate” with regards to actual shortages.
He added that, owing to the production deficit experienced at the close of 2013, store chains have begun to implement import plans ahead of schedule to meet domestic market demands, while waiting for domestic industries to fulfill their commitments.
The article reports that powdered detergent – most of which is imported – and soap (sold in both currencies) were in stable supply all of last year.
As regards the manufacturer Suchel, the report indicates it will “not be shut down.”
According to Cabrera, “what we’ve been seeing is a drop in perfume and cosmetics sales which has led the company Suchel Camacho S.A. to undertake a lay-off process.”
As of last year, there have been unconfirmed rumors that investors have pulled out of the joint-venture entered into with Suchel Camacho.
In addition, the official declared that the subsidiary Suchel Debon is undergoing restructuring. Soap production will be relocated to a different manufacturing plant, while liquid detergent will begin to be manufactured in the town of Jovellanos, Matanzas.