'The Cuban government has announced that it is launching widespread rationing of chicken, eggs, rice, beans, soap and other basic products in the face of a grave economic crisis.
Betsy Díaz Velázquez, the commerce minister, told the state-run Cuban News Agency that various forms of rationing would be employed in order to deal with shortages of staple foods. She blamed the hardening of the US trade embargo by the Trump administration.
Economists give equal or greater blame to a plunge in aid from Venezuela, where the collapse of the state-run oil company has led to a nearly two-thirds cut in shipments of subsidised fuel that Cuba used for power and to earn hard currency on the open market.
“We’re calling for calm,” Díaz said, adding that Cubans should feel reassured that at least cooking oil would be in ample supply. “It’s not a product that will be absent from the market in any way.”
Shop shelves on the Caribbean’s largest island have been increasingly empty of late with scarcity of basic products such as eggs, flour and chicken, and massive, hours-long queues for them whenever they come into stock.
Cubans have been flooding social media with photos of the queues they are in, under the hashtag #lacolachallenge (queue challenge) to highlight the problem.
Cuba imports 60% to 70% of its food. A handful of agricultural reforms in recent years have failed to boost output and it also suffers from a decades-old US trade embargo.
A decline in aid from key ally Venezuela and lower exports have left it struggling to find the cash to import. More US sanctions since Donald Trump became president have worsened its liquidity crisis.'
Read more: Cuba forced into rationing as US sanctions and Venezuela crisis bite
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