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Latino Daily News

Friday March 2, 2012

Cuba Facing Pork Shortage in State Markets

Cuba Facing Pork Shortage in State Markets

Photo: Cuba Facing Pork Shortage in State Markets

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Pork, the main attraction among all Cuban dishes, has been in short supply at state markets since January following a drop of almost 70 percent in availability due to production problems and a lack of “coordination” between the Agriculture Ministry and the Food Industry.

“The processing of smoked meat in the capital is practically at a standstill and deliveries to retail outlets are dwindling. The amount of pork produced in the west is not enough to meet the demand, nor are deliveries from the central part of the country,” official media said Friday.

Some of the Cuban press critized over the past few days the rise in prices and the insufficient supply of pork on the market since the beginning of 2012, immediately after the large sales volumes of the December holidays.

Pork is the main dish of Cuban cuisine and is traditionally served roasted for the Christmas and New Year’s festivities, accompanied by other favorites like cassava with mojo sauce made with garlic, olive oil and citrus juice, as well as by rice with black beans.

Granma, official newspaper of the Cuban Communist Party, noted Friday that Havana’s state markets are now supplied with a tenth of the volume available to them at the end of 2011, and some haven’t sold pork since Dec. 31.

Cubans interviewed Friday by Efe in Havana said the product is getting scarcer in state markets but that it can be found in unregulated farmers’ markets - at prices as much as twice the maximum established by the government.

“There’s more than enough meat, what people don’t have is the money to buy it,” one seller said.

Some believe that the current increase in demand is also related to the proliferation of private businesses selling food products, following the opening of the private sector promoted by the government in September 2010.

During the economic crisis brought on by the fall of the Soviet bloc in the 1990s, some families would improvise urban corrals to raise pigs on balconies, in bathrooms or small patios in order to make up for food scarcities.

“The pig, our National Mammal. It deserves a monument,” says a verse made popular in 2011 by the well-known musical duo Buena Fe.

Granma stressed Friday that the current problem isn’t caused by distribution of the meat but by “the meager volumes, the unequal deliveries and the lack of an opportune coordination” between companies of the Agriculture Ministry and the Food Industry.

The director of the Pork Marketing Group, Norberto Espinosa, told the daily that “there’s always a gap in production” in the first quarter of the year, but that the current crisis is made worse by the fact that private breeders “more and more prefer to sell to private parties and not to the state, because the former offer more tempting prices.”

Nonetheless, Granma wondered how the Pork Marketing Group could deliver more than 14,000 tons of pork meat to the Food Industry in December, while in January it could come up with only 4,545 tons, a drop of almost 70 percent.

The government of President Raul Castro considers reactivating agriculture to increase production a matter of “national security” because the country spends more than $1.5 billion a year importing 80 percent of the food it consumes.