Where’s the Made in Cuba?

By Aurelio Pedroso  (Progreso Semanal)

HAVANA TIMES – Applauded, with fervent and even patriotic exclamations of emotion, the decision made in the Havana municipality of Playa that, in the face of the avalanche of resellers, mostly from other municipalities, they would give people an opportunity to buy quietly and organized in stores in our territory.

And so it started, despite the fact that it was not the best day on the shelves.

A box of three Zap brand Vietnamese mini soaps with the attractive advertisement for “aristocratic perfume fragrance”; two tetra pak of 400 grams of fried tomato from Navarra, Spain;  two little packets of pork and chicken sausages from Brazil as well as one of chicken hash, and another of turkey, but from Spain.

Nothing of Cuban origin was for sale.

Blessed that hole of our hens, that against winds and tides of the blockade, plus other internal ills, strive so that we do not have to import Korean eggs.

Thinking as a country, as our President has suggested, my condolences to the national industry without chickens, turkeys, meats, tomatoes, and soaps.

18 thoughts on “Where’s the Made in Cuba?

  • Obviously you don’t know the difference between the Cayo where you vacationed and central Havana, the biggest single neighborhood in Cuba.

  • I get Cubita cafe in Canada Moses. The only other products I see are cigars (at a very high price) and rum.

  • Gracias Brian!

  • Oh, what I would give for a jar of guava jelly like my Grandmother made every year growing up in Florida. We don’t have the large, strong guavas here anymore like we used to but they have them in Cuba. I saw them.

  • Obviously, D.B. copper thinks that Cayo Cruz, is representative of conditions in Cuba!

    How easy it is to fool the ignorant! He should take a visit to La Lisa in Havana and observe the Cuban norm.

    It is however revealing, to know that the Castro regime is able to find goods to ensure that “Shelves are full in stores”, when the average Cuban mother has to line-up for hours in the hope that some food may be delivered to the local GAESA owned store. The regime certainly took D.B. copper for a sucker full of “bull s**t.”

  • Nick is referring to the ISO standards for food production and hygiene and in particular to ISO 9001, and is correct that European standards are higher than those in North America.

    In designing food processing facilities for North American clients, I invariably took them on brief trips to visit European facilities. There, clear safety regulations require defining areas within plants to three safety levels, low, medium and high risk, Workers in high risk areas have for example, to be stool tested and if off sick, have to be re-tested prior to entering such areas, where fresh gowns and masks each shift are mandatory.

    The source of all primary products can be traced to the individual farm or field of production within 24 hours. European food processing machinery is made entirely of stainless steel and high density plastic, with much of the best being produced in Holland and Denmark. Field machinery is also of very high standard and clever design – the UK and Holland being leaders.

    One of my signature practices was to include traffic light colours in the flooring of every area. Green, low-level, yellow mid-level and red high-level risk. Another was drop-down electrical and water services from ceilings, rather than from floors or walls. A Canadian client sought the construction of a plant that would meet safety standards until his retirement as CEO (he remains a shareholder). Fifteen years have elapsed without any change necessary – a reflection of European standards!

    The conditions in many North American food plants are disgraceful – hence the large Covid outbreaks in pork, beef and chicken plants in both the US and Canada.

    One of my Cuban brother-in-laws manages one of Cuba’s larger poultry units. It can best be described as akin to the standards of UK units in the late 1940’s. Labour being extraordinarily cheap, there is a very substantial staff, with much of the work being done by hand, again leading to poor sanitation. Production is mediocre.

    The highest standards of irrigation are to be found in Israel, where various forms of trickle irrigation originated. That led to hydroponics where again they did a lot of development, much of it rapidly copied by the Dutch. The concept of selling tomatoes “on the vine” for example, commenced with an Israeli grower at the south end of the Dead Sea in 1990, and has been copied world wide. I have similarly taken horticultural clients upon visits to Israel.

    Fresh water will become increasingly valuable and of limited supply, but much is currently being used for overhead spraying (as in Cuba) where up to 40% is lost through evaporation. With all that cheap labour, conditions akin to an outdoor greenhouse, Cuba could adopt intensive growing based upon trickle irrigation. More could be done to retain the more than ample rainfall with which the country is blessed.

    I trust I may be forgiven for displaying frustration, but Cuba could be a world class agricultural producer if casting aside its dogmatism. Instead it is having to grovel and seek the low quality chicken to which Nick referred and the lower grade rice imported from Vietnam.

    When at home in Cuba and passing through so much good agricultural land being wantonly wasted, I find it difficult not to cry. Where is the future for the people of Cuba when subjected to a system opposed to change?

  • It’s really a shameless that slogan in Cuban TV channels where some kids say: “We are happy in here”. How come and what kind of happiness could be that one

  • Here in Europe Cuban rum and cigars are commonly available products.
    By curious contrast I believe that chicken from the USA is effectively banned here due to it not passing basic European production and hygiene standards.
    If Cubans want to eat so much chicken, then the country needs to up its game and produce its own. All my Cuban friends who live in rural parts of Cuba manage to produce their own eggs, chickens etc.
    Just need the whole thing to upscale. Need some bright spark to take a machete to the absurd red tape and get the job done. Such a person would become a national hero.
    And that way Cuba wouldn’t have to rely on the sub-standard, sub-chicken, junk that gets exported from the USA.

  • Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all stop bickering, learn to live with each other and heaven forfend actually share, that’s a completely whacky concept I know, hey ho we live in hope.

  • I have been stuck in Cuba for 135 days since the pandemic started and I didn’t see anything that make sense here, I waited in queues for over 6 hours in the shops to buy hygiene products, wondering why there is nothing that can be produced inside the country, although the products mentioned above are all over priced comparing to the monthly income to the individual in Cuba.

  • Just came back Saturday from Cayo Cruz Cuba, and you guys are bullshiters. Shelves are full in stores, people are great, and guess what the best part was? No Americans. If you don’t know what is the truth I Cuba, take a break ins talk about the USA, alot of shit and things wrong there.

  • Douglas should know that Cuba possibly imports more food from the US than any country. Most of the frozen chicken is produced by Tyson, but many canned goods are also included.

    Canada’s main problem in exporting food, is the supply management system in the Canadian dairy and poultry sectors. It has been a problem in trade deals and with international marketing and negotiations at the WTO For many years, as it enables setting artificially high prices. Additionally the system discourages efficient production and innovation within those sectors.

    Canadian agricultural production is a bit of a fallacy – it represents a mere 2,5% of GDP. Many of the Canadian average crop yields are very low compared with those of Europe and the US.

  • When I left Cuba in 2005, eggs sold in Havana were imported from the U.S.A., as well as all the chicken sold in hard currency stores. Not surprised.

  • Here in Canada Havana club and Cuban cigars are plentiful…it disappoints me though that although Canada has never supported the embargo we do little to provide goods to Cuba.. we travel down alot but with our over abundance of food we could ease many shortages if the world politics would all step back …

  • Sugarcane, rum, cigars, tourism, music, medical professionals . . . and revolution.

  • I wonder if the shelves in Vietnam, Brazil, Spain and France have ample amounts of Cuban exports like Havana Club rum or Cuban cigars? Here in the US there is obviously nothing from Cuba but elsewhere in the world….?

  • Glad to see you are alive, well and still posting Carlyle- You were right years ago regarding the disaster that continues in Cuba and today, still brilliant.

  • The suggestion of Cuba purchasing eggs from Korea, is not a concept without precedence in the Socialist world. Rationing of food commenced in the UK in 1939, following the start of the Second World War. But whereas France for example, did away with rationing after the war, the Socialist government maintained it until voted out of office in 1951 – in short the UK had twelve long years of food rationing. But among the hare-brained ideas of the Socialist government when in office, was a scheme to operate egg production in distant Gambia – it inevitably, was a flop.

    Other ideas included importing guava jam, a awful fish named snoek from South Africa, and retailing whale meat – apparently ostrich was not as in Cuba, considered as a food, although their fluffy white feathers adorned the hats of the Knights of the Garter.

    Thankfully, the Socialist government was defeated in 1951 and rationing was promptly ended by Churchill’s Conservative government.

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