In the midst of a deep economic crisis, exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, the shortage of certain products, especially food and medicines, is already commonplace in Cuba. The novelty now is that until you get cigarettes became a problem on the island.
In the midst of the crisis that, among other factors, unleashed the unprecedented anti-government protests in early July, now Cuban smokers have received another bad news.
There is a serious deficit in the market of 24 million packs of national cigarettes, a figure that was not enough for an official “delivery plan” to the population forecast at 37 million. The situation, according to official criteria, only favors speculators.
The plan was only fulfilled by 34%, the Minister of Internal Trade, Betsy Díaz, explained to the press.
Due to the Covid-19 epidemic and its economic repercussions, the island’s authorities decided last June trade rationed the national cigarette brands called Criollo, Popular, Aromas and Titanes.
The head of the area justified that the decision aimed to contain hoarders and resellers, practices that are considered by Cuban regulations as crimes and that are sanctioned with fines and even judicial penalties in extreme cases.
National cigarettes have a very strong impact on the domestic market.
A line to buy food in a bakery in Havana, Cuba, days ago. Photo: BLOOMBERG
The country’s medical experts dedicate extensive campaigns and public measures to combat smoking, but recent polls indicate that smoking remains strong, especially among young people.
The minister stressed that the cigarette “is not a product contained within the regulated family basket and, therefore, it does not have to be distributed every month to the more than 3.8 million nuclei (NDR families) that exist in the country. “.
“This month, for example, there was a significant non-compliance with production, which aggravated the initial decision to sell the packs in the network of warehouses, small state businesses in neighborhoods,” he added.
The local press explained that cigarettes can be purchased on the market free of rationing restrictions.
This is because “not the entire Cuban population is a smoker.”
A food store in Havana, days ago. Photo: BLOOMBERG
When its sale is rationed “it is limiting the smoker and giving, to those who do not smoke, also a quantity of that product”.
Other sources told ANSA that this is a peculiarity that promotes the illegal market of the product when it falls into the hands of “non-smokers” who sell it or simply exchange it for other merchandise including food.
Because of the shortage in some provinces they decided sell in a controlled way two packages per person, while in other places it has been done by families or the sale has been limited to people over 18 years of age, stressed another internal trade official.
“It has been a territorial disposition, although the recommendation from the agency is that its commercialization be carried out in a regulated-controlled manner in order to avoid, as far as possible, product hoarding,” he added.
In general, the pandemic aggravated the shortage of mass consumer products in Cuba, a situation that forced the government to take a series of measures. Among them, allowing, after the unprecedented protests of July 11, the free import of food and medicine.