Business, Economics and Jobs

Cubans told high coffee prices mean they must drink a java-pea blend


Cuban workers get ready to pick coffee beans at plantations on the Sierra Maestra Mountains, in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba, on July 26, 2010. The Cuban Government is working on a strategy seeking to reactivate the production of coffee in the island, which in the last 50 years has fallen by 90 percent — from 60.000 tons it produced each year in the '60s, to only 6.000 nowadays.



Cubans have reportedly returned to mixing coffee with roasted peas amid soaring coffee prices.

The blend for domestic consumption, being distributed from this month, would help cut costs, said an Interior Commerce Ministry announcement published by Communist Party newspaper Granma.

Coffee prices had risen some 69 percent over the last year, the BBC reports, and Cuba needs to import coffee as its own production cannot meet local demand. Peas had gone up about 30 percent, but $500 a ton was still far below the cost of coffee, the BBC reported, quoting Granma.

The change apparently will not affect coffee for export, for sale in pricier stores or in establishments catering to tourists, according to the Associated Press.

The authorities are also eliminating the coffee ration for Cubans ages 0 to 6. Until now, coffee had been allocated by number of people in a household as a way to support families.

President Raul Castro proposed the measure in December, saying that Cuba couldn't afford the $47 million a year it was paying on imports to meet typically high local coffee consumption.

The state-run coffee company Cubacafe director Antonio Aleman said that while the country has spent $9.5 million to modernize production in the past five years, meager harvests are falling short of annual demand of 18,000 tons of beans.

Like rum and cigars, coffee is an iconic product in Cuba. Cubans, who tend to drink highly sweetened cups of java, are used to the pea blend.

"It's much, much more bitter than pure coffee, which is smoother," Havana resident Froilan Valido told the AP. "But many people here are accustomed to it."

Coffee with peas isn't as foamy when it boils, and the end result is a strong-tasting, less caffeinated brew, said Froilan Valido, an unemployed gas bill collector.