Cuba launches widespread rationing amid economic crisis

ALJAZEERA

Cuba has announced it is rationing staple foods and hygiene products due to shortages which it partly blames on the tightening of a trade embargo imposed by the United States.

Faced with a grave economic crisis, the Cuban government says it will control and ration the sales of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other essential items.

Commerce Minister Betsy Diaz told the state-run Cuban News Agency on Friday that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with the shortages.

“Our mission is to fracture all the measures the US government imposes, and today we are setting priorities,” Diaz said on the midday state-run news broadcast.

“We’re calling for calm,” Diaz said, adding that Cubans should feel reassured that at least cooking oil would be in ample supply. “It’s not a product that will be absent from the market in any way.”

Cuba, home to nearly 11 million people, imports roughly two thirds of its food at an annual cost of more than $2bn and brief shortages of individual products have been common for years.

A handful of agricultural reforms in recent years have failed to boost output in its inefficient, centrally planned economy, which also suffers from a decades-old US trade embargo.

But a decline in aid from key ally Venezuela and lower exports have left it struggling to find the cash to import. More US sanctions since Donald Trump became president have worsened its liquidity crisis.

Shop shelves on the Caribbean’s largest island have been increasingly empty of late with a scarcity of basic products such as eggs, flour and chicken, and massive, hours-long queues for them whenever they come into stock.

Cubans have been flooding social media with photos of the queues they are in, under the hashtag #lacolachallenge (queue challenge) to highlight the problem.

Many shoppers find themselves still standing in line when the products run out, a problem the government has been blaming on “hoarders”.