Reports from Cuba: Ceballos, one of the ‘crown jewels’ of the Cuban State, registers losses

14yMedio reports from Havana via Translating Cuba:

Ceballos, One of the ‘Crown Jewels’ of the Cuban State, Registers Losses

Ceballos’ flagship products have been in high popular demand for years, especially its tomato sauces and canned sweets. 

The Ceballos Agroindustrial Company, from Ciego de Ávila, one of the few jewels in the crown of the Cuban State, ended the first month of 2021 in the red. It was not planned: as the official newspaper Invasor notes, Vice President Marino Murillo, architect of the “Ordering Task,” had insisted that Ceballos would not be among the 426 entities that could end up with losses this year.

With the start of the new economic measures, the company went from the most demanded to the most reviled, when buyers observed that the prices of its products had quadrupled.

The entity did not put new products on sale until the third week of January due to lack of packaging, according to Invasor, but the rest of the month, no profits were generated, so the 5,000 workers of the company received only the basic salary.

Claudio Enrique Delgado Montes, director of Human Capital of Ceballos, told the local newspaper that with the salary reform of the Task Ordering, the salary increase was double, when the national average was 4.9, through having implemented piece-rate pay. “Therefore, our company’s increase wages must come hand in hand with profits, which is what is uncertain today.”

The problem, says the official newspaper without mincing words, “is precisely that the real cost of things conflicts with the express decision not to apply shock therapy and protect people’s purchasing power,” because “if it is important not to affect to the consumer, it is also important to maintain profitability.”

A reader responds to this in a comment: “Obviously, either the rules of the game change or the industry is bankrupt. If there is business autonomy, there can be no price limits against the logic of costs.”

Ceballos’ flagship products have been in high popular demand for years, especially its tomato sauces, canned sweets and other foods that are sold in various sizes of cans, including large ones. But, the opinions about the state company’s product line are not unanimous.

“I don’t buy their tomato puree because it is not good, they mix it with carrots and sometimes with beets to stretch it and the final flavor is not tasty. I think there is little left of the Ceballos industry of a few years ago, because the quality has fallen through the floor,” comments a customer, who frequently buys these canned foods through the market of the Youth Labor Army on Tulipán Street in Havana, speaking to this newspaper.

In the Cuban capital, the price of a can of tomato paste produced by the company has risen to more than 300 pesos, triple what the product cost last year before the monetary unification and price adjustments. Due to the new prices, the product is now piling up on store shelves without much demand.

The news of the the agro-industrial complex’s losses was published the same day that the governor Miguel Díaz-Canel insisted that “the business system of the Food Industry needs a shake-up, to take advantage of the 43 measures to strengthen the socialist state enterprise and get the most out of the ’Ordering Task’.”

“We can do more: more production, more efficiency, more products, better designs, different ranges of products, greater optimization of processes,” concluded Díaz-Canel at the meeting to analyze the work of the Ministry of the Food Industry during 2020.