Scarcity in Cuba: A Glimpse into the Daily Struggle for Food
The Unfortunate Reality of Food Scarcity
The bustling streets of Central Havana were unusually congested on a typical Monday, the crowd drawn to Plaza de Carlos III. Lines of people snaked around the vicinity, their eyes hopeful, attracted to what appeared to be a kiosk selling a delectable treat, small plastic cups filled with what seemed to be ice cream. However, the hopeful faces quickly turned to expressions of disappointment as they reached the kiosk. The tantalising treat was not ice cream, but egg meringue, drizzled with a few drops of artificially-colored strawberry syrup, all sold without a spoon.
The customers had no choice but to bring the cups to their mouths, squeezing them with their hands and inevitably, smearing their faces. An elderly woman voiced her disappointment, mentioning that she had never seen meringue sold alone before, especially not in such a soft form that it resembled a cake dressing. She fondly remembered the baked meringues that were once sold, a simple treat to fool the stomach, but such desserts had been absent from the streets since eggs became scarce.
Food Scarcity: A Rising Health Concern?
Another woman, angered by the long wait for a food product that essentially equated to empty calories, raised concerns about the potential health risks associated with such a product. Made from raw egg whites and sold without adequate hygiene conditions, she warned about the risk of salmonella infection from consuming such products.
Despite the disappointment and potential health risks, the meringue was sold out in just an hour. This incident paints a vivid picture of the scarcity of food products in the state-run and private markets. Common goods such as sausages, chicken, bottled water, and yogurt are often unaffordable or unavailable. This situation forces people to queue for long periods for whatever food products are brought to the market, even if the product is not what they initially thought or hoped it would be.
(Read Also: The Cuban Family Code: A Year of Progress and Change)
The Economic Crisis: A Catalyst for Scarcity
The current scarcity in Cuba is not an isolated incident but a manifestation of a more extensive economic crisis. As inflation soars, basic goods such as chicken, beef, eggs, milk, flour, and toilet paper have become difficult and often impossible to find in state stores. When they do appear, they often come at hefty prices, either from informal shops, resellers, or in expensive stores only accessible to those with foreign currency. This has significantly impacted the purchasing power of many on the island, making it extremely hard for them to afford basic necessities.
The shortages have stoked broader discontent on the island, leading to protests in recent years, as well as an emerging migratory flight from Cuba. The Cuban government acknowledges these issues, with President Miguel Díaz-Canel admitting to the government’s shortcomings in handling the country’s complex mix of crises, particularly food shortages. However, these words need to be backed up with a real plan to address these concerns.
Looking Forward: A Path to Alleviate the Scarcity?
While the government in Havana has stated that boosting national production is the best way to deal with shortages and queues, it has also slowly started opening the economy to private enterprise. However, these measures promise little short-term relief for consumers. The daily struggle for Cubans continues, with people spending hours in queues to buy basic goods, often leaving empty-handed.
The situation in Cuba serves as a stark reminder of the need for sustainable solutions to food scarcity. As the world grapples with similar issues exacerbated by climate change and geopolitical tensions, it is crucial to learn from these experiences and implement effective strategies to ensure food security for all.
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