Food security is an essential measure of people’s ability to readily access food and secure it against risks of food loss or spoilage. According to the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, food security is defined as “the means that ensure the food requirements of people in the current food-producing industries and projections for the future” and this requires “food production processes that foster both nutritional quality and environmental stability.”
Cuba has made significant progress in food production efficiency and distribution in recent years, but its overall food security status remains below the desired level. The Cuban Adjustment Act has restricted the amount of foreign trade with Cuba.
The result has been a limited ability to import basic food products. For example, the ban on the importation of sugar cane and other agricultural products was imposed as a measure of trade control.
In addition to restrictions on agricultural products, goods can be imported only if they are perishable or are manufactured in a country that the Castro government considers being its neighbor in terms of political relationship. In some cases, products may be allowed, but only after arrangements for transport by trucks or airplanes are made with the Castro government.
The result is a situation in which the Cuban consumers are unable to enjoy regular access to food products at subsidized prices
The restrictions have not deterred Cuban entrepreneurs from bringing new products to the market. In fact, many of the products imported from other countries are higher in quality and lower in price than products available in Cuba.
As a result, there has been a steadily increasing demand for food products imported from other countries. These increased demands have resulted in increased shipment traffic and increased processing and packaging activities, both of which have contributed to price increases.
A key challenge facing Cuba is food security
The Castro government has maintained a rationing system in which households receive food rations at regularly scheduled times and in predetermined quantities. This system has helped to limit food shortages, but has been unable to secure every family from food insecurity.
Cuba’s ability to meet its obligations regarding food security rests on increased trade. Unless Cuba allows the free flow of goods, especially food, the poor state of its economy will continue to deteriorate.
In response to the problems that Cuba faces in terms of food imports, the Government of Spain and other European Union members have worked together on recent years to encourage the growth of trade between the two nations.
There is now a surplus of food imported into Cuba relative to the number of people that are able to eat it. As a result, food shortages are not as prevalent and the rationing system has been strengthened to the point that food purchases are subject to strict controls.
While this approach has helped to stabilize the Cuban economy somewhat, the continued lack of food imports will continue to contribute to a lack of food security for Cuba’s citizens. Cuba’s neighbors, particularly the United States, are likely to continue to press the issue of food imports.
A policy that continues to deny entry to foodstuffs originating in Cuba will leave the Castro government with no choice but to depend on outside help to feed its people.
Other measures are being taken to increase Cuba’s food exports
In early August last year, the European Union began allowing food exports from Cuba to reach countries in South America. With this addition, Cuban food is reaching parts of the world that it has not before.
Although this step was welcomed by many in the food import industry, it is uncertain whether it will spur increased trade between Cuba and the rest of Latin America. Trade does represent a large portion of Cuba’s revenue, and a major boost to the sales of Cuban food could adversely affect Cuba’s currency.
With the threat of food scarcity, the Government of Cuba has decided to increase its food import fees. This increase will likely force many restaurants and other food service providers to increase their prices in an attempt to increase their profits.
In response, many of these same businesses may cut back on other activities or even close their doors entirely. If a hard economic climate continues to affect Cuba’s food supply, the growing shortages and inflation that have been troubling Cuba over the past two years will only get worse.
The potential for a food crisis in Cuba is real and has the world’s attention
With the threat of chronic food shortages due to increased exports and an unstable political economy, now is the time to consider food imports to Cuba. Cuba is not facing a food shortage; however, its leaders recognize the importance of maintaining stable international food trade relations.
They are taking every precaution to ensure food supplies continue to grow. For businesses interested in importing food products to Cuba, now is the best time to do so.