Cuba opens first wholesale market, though access limited

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba has opened its first wholesale market, lending a hand to some non-state businesses in an economy dominated by government-run enterprises.

State-run newspaper Granma said the market is part of an ongoing effort to “reorganize” commerce on the communist island. The market will sell beans, beer, sugar, cigars and other goods for 20 to 30 percent less than the products cost at state-owned retail stores throughout the country.

Since 2010, the government has authorized about 500,000 people to operate private businesses, and many of them have long sought access to a legal wholesale marketplace where they can pay below retail for the materials they use for their own products or resell to the public.

For most, their wait is not over. The government says the single market known as the Mercabal is only open to 35 worker-owned cooperatives in Havana, at least for now. Other officially licensed private workers might have access later.

The state-run economy accounts for 70 to 80 percent of the Cuban economy.

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