HAVANA – Cuba announced Friday that it will have to spend 25 percent more than its original estimates to pay the cost of food imports due to the international surge in commodity prices.
In a statement published Friday in the Communist Party daily Granma, the president of state-owned importer Alimport, Igor Montero, said that the impact of the world crisis on the Cuban economy this year is expected to total more than $308 million for importing basic products.
“That means that all the growth expected in revenues from the export of nickel, services, sugar and other goods and services, will not be net gains but must be spent to cover the deficit of the food-import bill,” Montero said.
There will also be “an increase in subsidies in proportions not contemplated in the plan” for the year, due to the “current structure of food distribution and sales,” which includes consumers’ use of rationing cards to buy a specific group of products at subsidized prices, he said.
Cuba imports close to 80 percent of the food supplies consumed by its 11 million inhabitants at a cost of some $1.5 billion per year.
Granma specifies that the expenditure goes mainly to buy wheat, corn, powdered milk, flour and soybean oil, which make up as much as 73 percent of the nation’s food bill.
According to Montero, among the government’s measures to check inflation has been to contract imports in the first months of the year and to buy commodity futures.
Montero said that the third strategy is to get moving with all projects aimed at increasing domestic agricultural production, which President Raul Castro has described as a matter of “national security” and is a priority in his plan of reforms.
“Thanks to the inexplicable contrivances of perseverance, much more than the real possibilities of our economy, our government pays whatever it costs so that, among the unprotected on this earth, there is not one Cuban,” Granma said, referring to the humanitarian consequences of the food crisis.
“Nonetheless, ways of working miracles are running out, and in a world where the mathematics of trade increases its pragmatism, the more the whirlwind slams those who have the least, the more we must find in our own lands and industries the strength to escape its vortex,” the newspaper said. EFE