In Cuba it is cheaper to buy a liter of rum than a kilo of powdered milk. Ever since convertible currency stores appeared in the nineties, people have been demanding price reductions for basic products. In its Monday edition, the Communist Party newspaper Granma announced a price reduction for powdered milk, but the measure has not been met with the satisfaction the authorities expected.
The new measure reduces the price of kilo of powdered milk by 15% in the hard currency stores. Now a kilo (2.2 pounds) costs 5.50 or 5.75 convertible pesos (CUCs), and a half kilo cost 2.90 or 2.80, depending on the quality of the container. The reduction, which went into effect on April 24, ranges from 0.45 to 0.85 CUC per packet, and is derived from “updating import costs,” according to sources at the Ministry of Finance and Prices.
The price adjustment benefits only the small sector of Cubans who can afford to pay the equivalent of what the average worker earns in four days for this product. Everyone else has to abstain from drinking milk or resort to the black market, where it is sold for a little less than half the official price.
In the store attached to a gas station located at the corner of Boyeros and Ayestaran Streets, several customers browsed on the Monday of the publicized price reduction, which so far has not set off any buying frenzy. The parishioners were wary and disappointed by how small the price reduction was for this basic food.
“What they have done is to return to almost the same price they had before the last year’s huge price increase”
Caridad Rojas has twin three-year-olds and the milk quota assigned to them in the ration market isn’t enough. After reading the note in Granma, she went to the closest store to buy milk at the new prices. “The truth is, what they have done is return to almost the same price from before last year’s huge price increase.”
The unpopularity of the measure adopted in 2014 could be one of the reasons the authorities decided to lower the price of the product. “They greatly reduced sales with the increase in prices, so in the end the State ended up losing money,” said an employee at the Carlos III commercial center, one of the largest supermarkets in Havana.
Meanwhile, milk continues to be distributed in the usual way to children under seven and to patients prescribed special diets at subsidized prices in the ration market. The rest of the buyers will confront the prices of the “hard currency” stores, where they can also pay in national pesos at an exchange rate of 1 CUC to 25 CUP (Cuban pesos, or “moneda nacional” – national money).