Shortages to Continue in Cuban Stores
September 12, 2014
HAVANA TIMES – When a Cuban goes shopping they never know what they will
find on store shelves. There may be plenty of some unaffordable luxury
products and acute shortages of basic necessities.
In the centralized system, government buyers purchase for millions of
Cubans. Consumer satisfaction is a factor rarely taken into account,
since the monopoly on the import and marketing protects the state companies.
Today we publish a report from Café Fuerte on the current shortages of
many basic products in the country. We recognize that if the situation
is distressing in the capital in the provinces and municipalities it is
Cuban Government Explains Shortages of 25 Basic Products
By Cafe Fuerte
Havana’s Puentes Grandes Commercial Center, located at the busy
interesection of 51 and 56 streets.
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban government has acknowledged that the shortage
and unstable supply of products sold through its retail network is
chiefly owed to a lack of the financial resources needed to guarantee
the production or import of these articles, adding that sanctions were
recently applied in cases in which such deficient market offers “had no
The Ministry for Domestic Trade (MINCIN) issued an open letter
recognizing that the shortage of some twenty food and personal hygiene
products at retail stores had been caused by a number of factors,
ranging from “the lack of financial resources needed to guarantee the
production or import of products during the first months of the year” to
“failure to comply with discipline and the established norms.”
It pointed out that “administrative and disciplinary measures” have been
taken in certain cases evaluated, where there was no justification for
the product shortage, as “the production conditions were present and the
country had made the needed financial resources available.”
MINCIN issued this missive in response to a report published on August
27 by Cuba’s main official newspaper, Granma, following increasingly
frequent complaints by the population over the shortage of basic
products at hard currency stores and State industrial product markets.
The article stated that product shortages have become a “chronic
phenomenon” in the country, despite attempts by industry to meet
production plans and efforts by retail chains to compensate for
unbalances through imports.
Potatoes, Juice and Toilet Paper
The list of under stocked products includes potatoes, fruit juices,
salt, domestically produced beers, toilet paper, toothbrushes, matches
and plastic bags.
Though MINCIN insists efforts to stabilize the supply of numerous
products for the remainder of the year are being made, the panorama
described does not appear to point to an immediate solution to the under
stocking of Cuban markets.
“With the import of some raw materials and supplies, it has been
possible to resume some production processes in the country and ensure a
more stable supply of high-demand products. That said, it is both
crucial and fair to point out that it will not be possible to meet the
population’s growing demands in all areas,” MINCIN stated, pointing to
the demands of the self-employed and new forms of employment established
in the country as one aggravating circumstance.
A letter issued by Cuba’s CIMEX Corporation followed MINCIN’ communiqué
last week. Published in Granma, it leaves a number of “pending
questions” regarding the shortage of products distributed by its stores
across the country unanswered. The document was signed by Barbara Rosa
Soto Sanchez, commercial vice-president of the company.
On the basis of these two letters, a list of 25 products in short or
unstable supply in Cuba’s domestic market, and the official prognosis
regarding a possible solution to this, can be drawn up.
• Potatoes: Production during this year’s harvest, aimed at 65,700 tons,
fell by 48,000 tons in comparison to 2013. These figures make it
impossible to satisfy the demand for this product.
• Natural juices and nectars: CIMEX has imported products to meet
demands and hopes to be able to stabilize the supply of its products by
year’s end. The increase in the number of self-employed workers and the
establishment of new food service cooperatives are the main causes of
the unstable supply.
• Soft drinks: Consumer demands aren’t being met and production plans go
unfulfilled. This has led to under stocking. These products are not
• Powdered Chocolate: The dairy industry has recovered production
indices, but these still do not meet customer demand.
• Domestic beer: Cristal and Bucanero-brand beers were fulfilling their
production plan at 94%, which is below the market demand. Shortages are
also being caused at markets due to the demand of the self-employed and
food service cooperatives. Other beers have been imported to meet demand
• Salt: No explanation as to its absence at markets is offered.
Production and delivery goals continue to go unfulfilled and contractual
clauses governing its sale are still being violated.
• Toilet paper: Domestic manufacturers are meeting production plans but
consumer demand is not being met. CIMEX imported toilet paper to reduce
shortages by 10 % during July.
• Toothbrushes: There have been delays in domestic production and
deliveries since May. CIMEX has begun to import this product to
stabilize its stocks. Demand is still not being satisfied, however.
• Toothpaste: A drop in market offer was registered in the first months
of the year. Supplies should become stable in the second half of the year.
• Deodorant: The industry experienced difficulties during the first
months of the year owing to a lack of financing, but production and
distribution have become stable.
• Laundry soap: With a production commitment of 17,000 tons for the
year, its offer is guaranteed in the market.
• Toilet soap: The production goal of 18,876 tons has been met to meet
demand. Product shortages are the result of distribution problems. The
soap deficit has been evident in the Cuban peso retail market, where a
sustained offer of the product has not yet been achieved.
• Razors: Stocks have run out. The product should be made available at
stores this month.
• Colognes and perfumes: A steady supply cannot be guaranteed through
domestic production or imports. Of the total of 5,938,600 units put on
the market last year by Suchel Regalo and Suchel Camacho, only 37%
(2,218,649 units) was available for sale this year. The industry is not
expected to recover until 2015.
• Talcum powder: The demand continues to go unmet. Of the 362,000 units
of talcum powder produced in 2013, a mere 16% will be produced this year.
• Batteries for electric motorcycles: Cuba’s Minerva factory has not
been able to guarantee a steady supply at retail stores operated by
CIMEX’ Automobile Transportation Division. Supplies for electric
bicycles, including the batteries, are expected to become stable by
mid-September with the help of imports.
• 18 and 32-Watt fluorescent lights: Though high numbers of affordable
fluorescent lights were imported from January to June for distribution
throughout the country, stocks have not become stable in the market.
MINCIN reports that under stocking is owed to a failure to import the
product on a timely basis.
• Energy-saving bulbs: There has been a shortage of this product since
the beginning of the year owing to lack of timely imports. The number of
bulbs needed to stabilize supplies in the market will be imported from
Vietnam and China. CIMEX claims that the market will recover slightly
between May and June.
• Portable radios: No contract with domestic manufactures exists because
a steady supply of this product cannot be guaranteed.
• Matches: the product shortages and unstable supply are owed to
negligence on behalf of the companies that sell the product. There are
no production problems or shortages.
• Grease removing and descaling substances: Lack of inventory and
unstable supplies in the market are expected throughout the year.
• Bleach: It will be impossible to meet customer demands owing to
technical problems faced by domestic manufacturers. Of the 8,720,879
liters of bleach needed to meet the demand this year, only 29% of that
volume will be produced.
• Hydrochloric acid: It will be impossible to meet demands. Of the
4,556,473 liters needed, a mere 7% will be produced for sale.
• Plastic bags: The product is available and instructions to sell it at
Cuban peso retail stores have been issued.
Source: Shortages to Continue in Cuban Stores – Havana Times.org –