Cuba subsidised milk: Govt struggles ensuring supply to children

Cuba subsidised milk: Govt struggles ensuring supply to children


The government hopes situation will improve in next month

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HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba is struggling to secure enough milk for children, a minister said, in the latest shortage putting strain on a decades-old subsidies scheme created by the late Fidel Castro.

Milk deliveries for children aged six months to two years had been delayed this month, minister of interior commerce, Betsy Diaz, said late on Thursday, though she promised deliveries would begin shortly in smaller quantities for priority groups.

Children with chronic illness, for example, will receive milk but at half their normal allotment, Diaz said.

"What we must convey to mothers who are worried, rightly of course, is that we are working daily to find alternatives," Diaz said on Thursday's nightly newscast.

Milk for children has long featured prominently as part of Cuba’s "rationbook" system introduced after the Castro's 1959 revolution to provide subsidised staples for all.

That system, however, has been plagued in recent years by shortfalls, delays and disorder as economic crisis has handicapped the communist-run government's ability to make good on its commitments.

Diaz said just three of Cuba's 15 provinces were currently producing enough liquid milk to satisfy demand as dairy farm output has plunged dramatically in recent years.

The remaining provinces, forced to rely on comparatively pricey and often imported syrups and powdered milk, were seeing the worst shortages, she said.

Cuba has long blamed a Cold War-era US trade embargo, which restricts financial transactions with the island, for shortages.

Some citizens have noted that small businesses, operating in Cuba since the government's 2021 decision to lift a ban on private companies, have little trouble importing milk despite the blockade and financial crisis.

Diaz rejected that argument, noting that private businesses sell their milk at market value to recoup costs, while the government sells it at "extremely subsidised" prices.

"The state, in advocating for social justice, delivers milk to everyone, but the milk available from (small private businesses) is not for everyone," she said.

The government has said it hopes milk supply will increase in March.