HAVANA, SEPT. 26 -- Cuba's Communist government extended rationing of food, clothes and household articles and restricted the sale of prized electrical goods today in a further sign that the island was feeling the disruption of Soviet imports.
The austerity moves signaled additional sacrifices for Cuba's 10 million people, who despite free health care and education often have endured rationing and shortages.
Less than a month ago, the government introduced stringent fuel restrictions and energy-saving measures to offset what it said was a shortfall in Soviet oil and other deliveries. It warned then of more cuts to come.
An official statement published in today's Communist Party newspaper Granma said the country was entering "a special period in time of peace." This is the government's euphemistic term for a siege economy caused by a sharp fall-off in trade with Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, by far the island's main supplier, because of economic problems there.
"We repeat that we must be ready to face even more difficult circumstances than the present ones," the statement said.
In a move to ensure fair distribution and prevent hoarding and black marketeering, the government imposed controls on the sale of 28 food items that previously had been sold freely, including canned meat, fish and fruit, fresh and frozen fish, cream cheese, pasta and even ketchup.
Sale of these items would now be restricted by the family ration book, which already lists 35 items, such as rice, meat, soap and milk.
More than 180 items of clothing, shoes and basic household and consumer goods were also transferred to the ration book, leaving only some limited expensive luxury goods, beyond the reach or needs of most households, on free sale.
Citing both uncertainties about future Soviet deliveries and the need to save energy, the government also restricted sale of refrigerators, televisions, air conditioners, fans, washing machines, blenders, radios, record players, electric irons and even coffee makers and pressure cookers.
These consumer items were highly prized by Cubans because of their scarcity and were often distributed by the official Cuban Workers' Union as rewards and incentives to model workers.
Sales of air conditioners were stopped completely. Those who had been allocated units would be allowed to buy Chinese-made fans instead. Electric irons would only be available for sale to newly married couples.
Availability in the future of these electrical goods would depend on whether the government could afford to buy them and the terms of new commercial agreements being negotiated with the Soviet Union, the statement said. It said there was little prospect of major purchases of these goods in 1991.
Soviet officials say that 1991 trade with Cuba will be based on convertible currency and reflect world prices. Cuba had previously exchanged sugar, nickel and fruit for Soviet oil, food, machinery and consumer goods on a barter basis.