December 4, 2023

By Andrea Rodriguez | Related Press

HAVANA — Till not too long ago, the house was the one-car storage of a personal residence in Cuba’s capital, Havana. Right now, it’s a well-stocked, if small, grocery retailer whose massive board on the gate entices buyers with such choices as cooking oil, tomato sauce, Hershey’s cocoa powder, Nutella, shampoo, cookies and jam — a treasure trove in a rustic that’s in need of provides.

The anonymous store within the residential neighborhood of El Vedado is considered one of dozens of tiny grocery shops which have sprung up round Cuba in latest months. Locals seek advice from them as “mipymes” — pronounced MEE-PEE-MEHS. The identify derives from the Spanish phrases for the small- and medium-sized enterprises that have been first allowed to open in 2021.

By permitting the brand new companies, the Cuban authorities hoped to assist an financial system in disaster and strengthen native manufacturing. The virtually 9,000 enterprises authorised to date embody the likes of stitching workshops, fisheries and development corporations, however it’s small retail retailers just like the one in Vedado that appear to be establishing the quickest.

In addition they have larger visibility among the many inhabitants as a result of they provide many merchandise not out there elsewhere and often function out of personal houses or garages.

But regardless of their modest setup, their costs are removed from reasonably priced, even for a health care provider or a instructor, who make about 7,000 Cuban pesos a month (about $28 within the parallel market).

For instance, one kilo (2.2 kilos) of powdered milk from the Czech Republic prices 2,000 Cuban pesos (about $8). A jar of Spanish mayonnaise goes for $4. Two and a half kilos (about 5 kilos) of rooster imported from the U.S. price $8. There are additionally much less important items: a jar of Nutella for $5, a bottle of bubbly Spanish wine for $6.

The shoppers ready to make use of these small retailers embody Cuban households who obtain remittances from overseas, tourism employees, diplomats, staff of different small- and medium-sized companies, artists and high-performance athletes.

“It is a luxurious,” Ania Espinosa, a state worker, stated as she left one retailer in Havana, the place she paid $1.50 (350 Cuban pesos) for a packet of potato chips for her daughter. “There are individuals who don’t earn sufficient cash to buy at a mipyme, as a result of every little thing may be very costly,” she added.

Along with her month-to-month state wage, Espinosa makes some extra revenue and receives remittances from her husband, who has lived within the U.S. for a 12 months and a half and beforehand lived in Uruguay.

A couple of yards away, Ingracia Virgen Cruzata, a retiree, lamented the excessive costs on the store. “I retired with 2,200 (Cuban pesos a month or $8.80) final 12 months and I can’t even purchase a bundle of rooster,” she stated.

Many of the merchandise present in these shops are imported immediately by the entrepreneurs by means of state-run import companies, a system that has additionally opened the door to the emergence of larger, higher stocked shops.

In latest weeks, a personal retailer, accessible solely to those that personal a automotive, opened on the outskirts of Havana, that includes big cabinets stuffed with imported merchandise reminiscent of Tide detergent, M&M’s sweet and Goya model black beans. Due to its dimension (it’s a minimum of 10 instances bigger than the shop in Vedado) — and various choices — it has come to be generally known as the “Cuban Costco.”