The influx of American tourists to Cuba is draining the island nation of its most popular beers-- and the state’s main brewery is struggling to keep pace with demand.
Bucanero, a joint venture between the Cuban government and Anheuser Busch InBev, is considering opening a new plant to supply rising demand from both tourists and a growing private restaurant sector that competes with state run eateries, Bucanero sales executive Mayle Gonzalez told state media on Friday.
In 2015, Cuba welcomed a record 3.5 million visitors, up 17 percent from the previous year. During that same period, American tourism surged on the island, rising 77 percent. With President Obama’s loosened travel restrictions, the rise in visitors is expected to keep a similar pace of growth through 2016, reports Reuters.
Small restaurants that cater to both tourists and Cubans have flourished in the past five years since President Raul Castro formalized changes designed to loosen restrictions from the Communist state on many small-scale economic activities. But the proliferation of unregulated eateries has put a strain on businesses dependent on government supply.
“Private bars can go out and find supplies where they can, I can only sell what the government gives me,” said one manager of a state-run bar that ran out of beer, while a private bar upstairs had a fridge full of cold bottles.
Bucanero, the country’s largest beer maker, also produces Cuba’s most widely consumed brew Cristal.
According to reports in local media, Cuba’s breweries have signed contracts for more than 33 million cases of beer this week, which is far beyond current production capacity. To keep up with demand, Bucanero is reportedly planning to import three million cases of beer from nearby Dominica, reports The Drinks Business.
Despite the recent rise in foreign visitors, this isn’t the first time Cuba has struggled to fulfill beer supply. In August 2014, Bucanero faced delayed imports of malted barley causing a sharp decline in production during one of the hottest summers on record. The shortage sparked beer hoarding nationwide and inflated prices.