Food online: in Cuba food arrives through the Internet

Food online: in Cuba food arrives through the Internet

Published on 25 Feb 2024

Online sales are an option in the face of food shortages, although it is not viable for everyone.

There is hunger in Cuba. The economic crisis that the island is experiencing has affected the pantry of Cubans who often have no food to offer their families. At the end of last year the regime admitted it. The “economy is in a complex situation”, said in September the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, Alejandro Gil Fernandez, on the official TV program Mesa Redonda (Round Table).

Today, with the economy minister dismissed, the Díaz Canel regime is trying to wash its face about what is happening on the island. Meanwhile, Cubans continue to turn to the black market for food on social media such as Facebook to buy food that is in short supply. However, the overpricing means that only few have the luxury of buying online.

What is happening with food in Cuba?

In Cuba there is a food shortage generated by deep economic problems that increase blackouts on the island, fuel shortages and also empty the shelves.

Last year the Cuban government itself admitted the delays in the delivery of rationed food on a monthly basis to every Cuban household, the lack of milk for children and the lack of bread.

According to a recent Cuba Data report, 83.2% of Cubans surveyed are dissatisfied with the measures taken by the government to deal with food shortages. For most average families in Cuba, who depend on state salaries, feeding themselves daily or obtaining food at affordable prices represents an odyssey.

Depleted family incomes, food of the daily diet with skyrocketing prices, missing products only available in foreign currency and black market as an escape were the signs of the survival of Cubans in 2023 and that do not seem to change in this 2024.

No work, no remittances

The problem with food shortages is that what is available is beyond the purchasing power of many Cubans. The main source of family income of the participants in the Cuba Data survey was state employment (36.0%) and only 10.7% obtained their income through remittances.

Official figures show that two thirds of the Cuban population, that is, more than seven and a half million inhabitants, do not receive remittances from abroad, so only 9.5% have never had problems obtaining basic foodstuffs.

The majority of Cubans (90.5%) experience difficulties in obtaining food: 38.1% every day, 11.0% five to six times a week, 15.4% three to four times a week, and 26.0% one to two times a week.

Almost half of the respondents (47.2%) ever stopped eating for an entire day because food was insufficient and all respondents employed some strategy to cope with shortages and high prices, buying cheaper and less nutritious food (31.3%), reducing portion sizes (32.4%), skipping meals (19%), asking for help from an NGO (4.5%) or relatives (12.8%).

Hundreds of groups: black market inflates prices

The Cuba Data report states that for 52.5% of Cubans, online platforms have been the vehicle for buying or selling products or services clandestinely. In these virtual spaces Cubans have mainly found or offered food (32.0%).

These operations are carried out in the midst of Internet connection problems, reported by 34.8% of respondents; problems with payment methods experienced by 9.2% or trust problems with sellers/buyers experienced by 13.5%.

The preferred place for the online food black market continues to be Facebook. Through countless groups with different names, Cubans offer food for combos that can be paid for in different ways.

The food sales group in Cuba with the most members is called “Combos de comida en la Habana” (Havana Food Combos). This community has more than 351 thousand members, which represents 15% of the entire population of Havana.

The overpricing of the combos is evident. For 110 U.S. dollars you can buy just seven kilos of meat, one kilo of deli meats and other groceries, which represents an increase of more than 100% of the cost of the same products in other countries.

These groups have more than 10 publications a day, which determines the mobility of offers in a black market that grows along with the island’s food shortage.

Not everyone can afford them

Offers of food combos on the island are mostly paid in U.S. dollars. Transfers are received from abroad through bank accounts in the United States. Thus, remittances also arrive in the form of food.

However, not everyone on the island receives remittances. Only a third of the population receives them, so Food Monitor Program, an independent initiative that studies food insecurity in Cuba, denounces that the sale of overpriced food in online businesses “widens the social gap between those who have relatives abroad and those who do not”.

Meanwhile, the Cuban government does not stop complaining that the hardships suffered by its citizens are due to the “blockade” of the northern neighbor.

Follow us on all social media as @ProBoxVE for more information and content on these topics.

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