Cuba’s Food Crisis

Posted: May 14, 2019

Cuba has a big problem. It has a shortage of staples—basic goods people need to live. Government officials plan to limit how much chicken, eggs, rice, beans, and soap people can buy. Officials want to control the sale of scarce staples. That’s called rationing.

Why is there a food and goods shortage in Cuba? Cuba’s Commerce Minister Betsy Díaz Velázquez blames President Trump’s administration for tightening trade with Cuba. Other people blame Venezuela. Venezuela supplies Cuba with oil. Venezuela’s state-run oil company has collapsed. This cuts the supply of fuel Cuba uses for power and trade. Without enough fuel, Cuba can’t get enough food.

No matter who is to blame, Cuba is facing a food crisis. Cuba depends on other countries for food. Now food is disappearing from store shelves. Stores have long lines. They run out of food fast. The government also blames “hoarders” for the food shortage. Hoarders stock up on supplies—often out of fear that staples will run out.

Lazara García thinks her government should ration food. She says, “The country’s going through a tough moment. This is the right response. Without this, there’ll be hoarders.” This week, the entire country is being asked to ration food.

What is grocery shopping like in Cuba? The government runs Cuba’s groceries. Every Cuban gets a ration book. This book lets each person buy small amounts of basic foods. Only a certain amount of each food can be purchased monthly. The food isn’t expensive, but quantities are limited. Cubans with more money can buy more food. But extra food is expensive.

Is rationing the answer to Cuba’s food crisis? Not everyone thinks so. “What the country needs to do is produce,” says business owner Manuel Ordónez. He says if Cubans make more goods to put on the shelves, lines will be shorter. But is that possible? The government controls all Cuba’s trade. Cuba’s food production is shrinking. Commerce Minister Díaz is convinced that food rationing will make staples available to most people. She says, “Selling limited quantities will lead to equal distribution, so that the greatest number of people can buy the product, and we can avoid hoarding.” What do you think?

We read about a severe famine in Genesis 41. Joseph, in Egypt, rationed stored grain to people from different nations. Genesis 41:57 says, “Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth.”

An employee works in a government food store in Havana, Cuba, in October 2009. The store’s shelves are empty. On Friday, May 10, 2019, the Cuban government announced that it will begin rationing basic staples. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)