There's a shortage of toilet paper in Cuba, and officials in Havana say it will not ease until the end of the year.
MIAMI — There’s a shortage of toilet paper in Cuba, and officials in Havana say it will not ease until the end of the year.
However, day-old copies of the Communist party’s newspaper Granma, a traditional substitute, are available for less than a U.S. penny. And that’s six to eight full, if rough, pages a day.
Cuban officials say the shortage is the result of the global financial crisis and three hurricanes last summer, which forced cuts in imports and in domestic production because of reductions in electricity and imports of raw materials.
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The shortage is no joking matter for Cubans.
Toilet paper is not included in the ration card that covers basic goods at highly subsidized prices, so Cubans have long been forced to buy supplies at “hard-currency stores” or use alternatives; Chinese and North Korean magazines have been a favorite because of their soft paper.
On Tuesday, a pack of four Cuban-manufactured toilet-paper rolls was selling in Havana for the equivalent of about 28 pesos, or about two days’ salary for the average worker.
“Right now almost all the stores are out of it, and it’s a miracle that I found it,” said a Havana retiree, who asked for anonymity, in a telephone interview from Miami.
Cuban officials quoted this month in the official Radio Rebelde predicted “an important importation of toilet paper” by the end of the year “to supply this demand that today is presenting problems.”
The Productos Sanitarios Proa factory in Matanzas province also produces toilet paper.
Many Cuban factories have suffered from shortages of imported raw materials and government-forced closings to save on electricity.
The government-imposed closings of factories and offices to save on electricity may be helping to ease the toilet-paper shortage, according to the retiree.
Many copies of Granma and other newspapers sent to distribution points for later delivery to factories and offices are not being picked up because of the closures, the retiree said, and are being sold.
Many retirees, he added, are hitting predawn lines at those distribution points to buy 10 to 15 copies of daily and older versions of the newspapers for bathroom use, wrapping garbage and other household uses.
The retirees pay 20 Cuban cents a copy — about 0.007 of a U.S. cent — and resell it to neighbors for up to 20 Cuban pesos, or about 71 U.S. cents.