Cuba’s Expensive Glass of Milk

April 12, 2014 | Print Print |

Fernando Ravsberg*

The new price for a 1/2 kilo is powdered milk is 3.35 CUC. The kilo went up to 6.60 CUC. (1 CUC = 1.13 USD).

HAVANA TIMES — Officials from the Ministry of Finance and Prices, the Food Industry and CIMEX Corp. pulled off a fast one this week when they announced they would raise the price of milk because its price on the world market had gone up.

Various sources, including the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, ensure that the international price of milk powder is falling and this year will actually cost 10% less. Apparently the population deserves a more detailed explanation on the subject.

Someone should explain where the milk is purchased, why it is so expensive, if Washington penalizes the sale [under the embargo] when the cows have US genes or if the integration with Latin America cannot provide cheaper markets.

If the government’s importers do not have clear answers to these questions, the Comptroller General of the Republic should become involved at the smell of the sour milk. It wouldn’t be the first time they buy bad and expensive.

And while at the same time they are telling people that the milk price must go up, they also recently announced that tens of thousands of cows are dying of hunger and thirst in the country. As happens with the bankers in Europe, inefficiently run agriculture is paid for by the citizens.

Assuming that all the criticisms that have been unleashed are wrong and that Cuba cannot buy milk cheaper on the international market, there could still be better solutions than raising the price to the public.

Blogger Yohan Gonzalez proposes raising the price of “luxury products or alcoholic beverages, which being harmful to health could well receive a tax to avoid further losses with the milk.”

If the sales price of cars rose to 10 times their value to fund public transport, why not use the same principle to subsidize milk for children and the elderly by raising the price of rum and cigarettes?

In the case of rum and milk, I don’t think anyone doubts as to which product should be subsidized and which should be taxed. Families with children and also those with alcoholics would be appreciative.

If this really is the “revolution of the humble, for the humble and for the humble” there are many more products that could be taxed to subsidize the staples of the Cuban family.

You’d think it would annoy the humble of the revolution to have the same tax on imported ice cream, cheese and chocolates as on staple products, forcing them to spend more than 10% of their salary to buy a liter of vegetable oil.

When the government raised car prices nobody supported the measure, but to most Cubans it mattered little. With the increase in the price of milk, officials are once again alone, but this time managed to awaken the ill-feeling of the majority of the population.
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(*) Visit Fernando Ravsberg’s blog.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    The price of whole (non-powdered) milk was already priced well above the budget of ordinary Cubans. Most Cubans stop drinking milk as children. Milk in Cuba is generally sold in powdered form and largely used in cooking and not for drinking. Powdered Milk sold from the bodega is often sold well beyond the ‘sell by’ date stamped on the packet and the packaging itself is often compromised. Milk simply is not as important to the Cuban diet as it is elsewhere in the world. This price increase is not the big issue it would be in other countries or cultures.

    • pipefitter

      I don’t know where this guy is getting his info from, but the price as it shows today is just over $4000.00 US per metric ton or $4.00 US per KG

      • pipefitter

        When you add shipping and currency requirements it seems it is sold in Cuba at close to cost. (6.60 CUC per KG)

        • Moses Patterson

          Hahaha! Close to cost? The average salary is barely more than 23 cuc per month. Would you be willing to work an entire week just to buy a couple days worth of milk?

          • pipefitter

            Thats why Cubans don’t drink much milk. They buy it on the world market and like everyone else have to pay world prices for it. A Mexican chambermaid makes about $4.00 US a day and has to pay $4.77US for a KG of fish or $11.00 for a bottle of tequila or $165.00 for a 20″ television. Thats why we know Cubans have to produce more of their own food and not have to buy so much on the world market. Most Cuban families have more than one income per household and most look very healthy unlike us North Americans.

          • Moses Patterson

            A Mexican chambermaid at that pay level makes more in a week than a Cuban neurosurgeon makes in a month. The comparison between who looks healthier is silly. According to who? Cite your source? Anecdotally speaking, Americans are fat because we eat too much crap. At least we have the ‘crap’ to eat though.

          • John Goodrich

            SFB,
            The state of Mississippi is both the poorest state in the U.S. and has the most overweight/obese population of any state.
            Poverty forces the poor to eat high carbohydrate , fatty and sugary foods because those are the cheaper foods.
            A healthy diet with fresh fruits, vegetables and lean meats is beyond the ability to pay for these unhealthy, obese people and it is capitalism that creates this situation.
            If they had the money, they’d be able to afford healthier foods .
            Meanwhile the Cubans are among the healthiest people in the world according to the W.H.O. and is the lone country in Latin America with no childhood malnutrition.
            This is because of its socialist-STYLE method of distribution of essential goods and services which provides the necessities of life to all Cubans and not just profits for some big companies .
            “Ye cannot serve both God and mammon.”
            ……As any good Christian or socialist knows.

          • Moses Patterson

            WHO solicits self-reported data. Cuban statistics should be taken with a grain of salt. Cuban reality is overcome with high incidences of heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. Cuban children up to age 7 are indeed well regarded by the Castro regime. It is what happens after age 7 that encourages these same young people to dream of leaving Cuba in droves. Finally, careful with the term “good Christian”. The Bible tells us that “all have fallen short”.

          • Griffin

            Fast food, loaded with fat & processed carbohydrates are more expensive than fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. The poor chose to eat a poor diet for cultural reasons. I have worked in a food bank in Toronto handing out food to the poor. The poor tend to ignore the fruits & vegetables and grab all the chips, Kraft dinner and sugary cereals they can carry.

          • Informed Consent

            I always find it rather offensive to have someone laud the distribution, efficiency, or “good will” of communist Cuba, especially when it comes to diet. Having had to endure the reality of the Cuban diet in my youth, I can tell you it was no fun, it was barely existence, and this before the special period!

  • Griffin

    I would be interested to learn where Cuba obtains their milk from. I know they import butter from New Zealand. Even though it is 8000 miles away, the South Pacific nation produces so much more milk than they consume, they can export large quantities around the world. It would not surprise me if the powdered milk available in Cuba also comes from New Zealand.

    Oh! A quick search on Google, & I have a possible answer:

    “Milk powder booms as China now top market”

    The rising middle class in China have a mania for drinking milk, not something traditional to the Chinese diet. As a result of the huge demand for New Zealand milk in China, the cost for exports to Cuba has risen.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/industries/9673275/Milk-powder-booms-as-China-now-top-market

    Another possible answer my have more to do with changing currency exchange rates and not anything to do with the price of milk per se. The tragedy is that Cuba used to have a very large heard of cattle, but through 5 decades of mismanagement, the heard has shrunken and productivity per cow has dried up. Yet another acheivement of the revolution.

    • John Goodrich

      Jamaica has processed cheese from the Middle East and cheddar cheese from New Zealand in most of its grocery stores so it is not surprising if Cuba buys from them as well .
      Most Chinese are genetically lactose intolerant and that’s why they use soy milk over cow milk so commonly.
      In the U.S. they are killing off a much larger percentage than usual of the beef cattle because of the widespread U.S. drought and the cost of the supplemental feed. As a result, beef prices in the U.S. ,already high will soar beyond the willingness and ability to pay for beef by the poorer segments of the society.
      Cuba is not alone in having weather problems as more drastic climate change occurs around the planet.
      The difference between the U.S. and Cuba is that in Cuba every gets a smaller ration of beef and in the U.S. the poor get no beef, just like Cuba before the revolution. .

      • Griffin

        Beef, pork and chicken are cheap in the US. Nearly all those in poverty have enough to eat, including protein and milk. When US poor do not get enough to eat, it’s almost always a matter of some other social problem such as drug or alcohol abuse or parental neglect. In fact, obesity is a greater problem among US poor than hunger is.

        Before the Cuban revolution, the poor at better than the average Cuban today. They had worse housing and little to no education or medical care, but they did eat better.

      • Robert

        I left cuba in 1994…and after 1989 the cuban population did not see the beef even in pics.