Rise in tourism threatens Cuba beer shortage

A surge in American tourists to Cuba has left the country’s breweries feeling the strain and locals facing shortages of their favourite beers.

The Cuba Skate team along with founder Miles Jackson work on cleaning up and building a new ramp at the Havana skate park this weekend.

The Cuba Skate team along with founder Miles Jackson work on cleaning up and building a new ramp at the Havana skate park this weekend.

Since US President Barack Obama eased travel restrictions to the country in an effort to end years of hostility with the country, American tourists have been flocking to the island, Reuters reports.

Last year Cuba welcomed a record 3.5 million visitors, up 17% on the previous year. The number of American visitors to the island increased by 77% to 161,000. In May, hundreds more will arrive on the island from a cruise ship travelling from Miami to Havana – the first such voyage since the US embargo that followed Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

Cuba’s main brewer, Bucanero, is reportedly considering opening a new plant to keep up with demands of tourism. Mayle Gonzalez, a sales executive at Bucanero, told state media that a new plant would help it keep up with growing demand from tourists and a emerging private restaurant sector. Many private bars and restaurants have opened on the island since President Raul Castro introduced changes five years ago to remove the Communist state from many small-scale economic activities.

Such businesses compete with state-run outlets for supplies meaning that state-run bars are struggling to maintain stocks as they can only sell what the government gives them.

“Private bars can go out and find supplies where they can, I can only sell what the government gives me,” said the manager of a state-run bar that ran out of beer, while a private bar upstairs had a fridge full of cold bottles.

Meanwhile, the production capacity of breweries on the island are running short. According to reports in local media, Cuba’s breweries signed contracts for more than 33 million cases of beer this week, far beyond its production capacity, with Bucanero reportedly planning to import three million cases of beer from Dominica to keep up with demand.

Bucanero is a joint venture between the Cuban government and Belgium’s Anheuser Busch InBev. Alongside Bucanero, the brewery’s brands include Cristal, Cacique and Mayabe.

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