Cuba’s Coffee Crisis: The Bitter Reality of Supply and Demand
The Coffee Paradox: High Prices Amidst Scarcity
In an unexpected twist, despite coffee becoming a scarce commodity in many parts of Cuba, it maintains a robust presence in dollar stores and online shopping platforms where payments are made from abroad. This disparity has sparked a heated dialogue on social media, causing many to question the accessibility and affordability of this beloved beverage. For a country known for its rich coffee culture, the situation seems paradoxical.
Provinces such as Villa Clara and Sancti Spíritus offer various Café Cubita varieties online in Freely Convertible Currency (MLC) stores. The prices range from $2.39 USD for a 115-gram packet of ground Cubita coffee to an astounding $386.49 USD for 20,000 grams of Café natural Cubita in grain. Other brands like Caracolillo and Buenos Días also feature in these online stores, albeit the prices remain high.
The Impact of Declining National Production
The unavailability of coffee in the basic basket since May, in certain regions, is indicative of declining national production levels. The coffee crisis is not an isolated event, as scarcity extends to other products that could be produced in the country, including staple ingredients like sugar and salt. The high cost and large packaging size of coffee in MLC stores render it inaccessible for a significant demographic, exacerbating the crisis.
Addressing the Root of the Problem
The coffee crisis in Cuba is symptomatic of larger systemic issues plaguing the country. Factors like pests, climate change, and outdated technology have led to a decrease in coffee production. Furthermore, the depopulation of rural and mountainous areas, which traditionally have the microclimates favorable for coffee cultivation, has also contributed to the decline.
Interestingly, Cuba was once a significant exporter of coffee, achieving a record production of 60,300 tons during the 1961-1962 harvest. However, current production volumes do not exceed 10,000 tons per year, barely meeting domestic demand, let alone exports. The government has recognized this issue and has begun identifying suitable regions for coffee cultivation in the plains, offering training and technical guidance to new coffee growers.
Looking at the Broader Picture: Cuba’s Food Crisis
The coffee crisis in Cuba is a single thread in the vast tapestry of the nation’s food crisis. Issues such as low agricultural yields, inflation, fuel shortages, and the U.S. blockade have contributed to escalating food prices and widespread dissatisfaction among the Cuban population.
Efforts are underway to mitigate this crisis, with the Cuban government implementing the 2022 law on Food Sovereignty and Food and Nutritional Security. However, the road to recovery is long and fraught with challenges. It will require not just systemic changes but a shift in mindset towards a culture of production.
The Way Forward
Addressing Cuba’s coffee crisis, and the broader food crisis, will require a concerted effort from all sectors of society. While the government must continue to implement policies that encourage domestic production, Cuban citizens must also foster a culture of self-sufficiency and production. It will indeed take a ‘revolution’ in agricultural production, as suggested by the National Assembly, to turn the tide.
In the meantime, the current coffee crisis serves as a bitter reminder of the challenges facing Cuba’s food supply chain and the need for proactive measures to ensure the availability and affordability of these essential commodities.
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