Thursday, March 29, 2007

Embargo? U.S. is main food source for Cuba

Monday, March 26, 2007


HAVANA -- Since 2003, one country has been the main supplier of food to Fidel Castro's Cuba: the United States.

Surprised? You have good company.

Many Americans think their government's 45-year-old embargo blocks all trade with the Communist government, but the United States is the top supplier of food and agricultural products to Cuba. In fact, many Cubans depend on rations grown in Arkansas and North Dakota for their rice and beans.

Since December 1999, governors, senators and House members from at least 28 states have visited Cuba, most to talk trade. They keep coming: Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman was flying in Sunday with a farm delegation. Gov. C.L. "Butch" Otter of Idaho plans a visit next month.

Washington's sanctions choke off most trade with Cuba, but a law passed by Congress in 2000 authorized cash-only purchases of U.S. food and agricultural products and was cheered by major U.S. farm firms like Archer Daniels Midland Co. interested in the untapped Cuban market.

Cuba refused to import one grain of rice for more than a year because of a dispute over financing, but finally agreed to take advantage of the law after Hurricane Michelle in November 2001 cut into its food stocks.

Since then, Cuba has paid more than $1.5 billion for American food and agricultural products, said John Kavulich, senior policy adviser at the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council of New York.

The $340 million in exports in 2006 represented a drop of about 3 percent from 2005, which was down from nearly $392 million in 2004. Kavulich said the decline was caused mostly by generous subsidies and credits from Venezuela and China.

But the United States remains on top. Its main exports to Cuba include chicken, wheat, corn, rice and soybeans -- much of it doled out to Cubans on the government ration.

The United States also sends Cuba brand-name cola, mayonnaise, hot sauce and candy bars, as well as dairy cows.

Kirby Jones, founder of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association in Washington, said Cuba's food import company Alimport has an entire department dedicated to American purchases.

Jones was in Cuba this month with Arkansas chicken exporters, Nebraska bean growers and officials from the Port of Corpus Christi, Texas.

"Hundreds and hundreds of American executives have come down here," he said. "[Cuban officials] know how to talk to us."


Delaware May Start Trade with Cuba

(AP) - March 25, 2007 - Delaware is looking to start trading with Cuba. In 2001 the federal government made it legal to sell medical supplies and agricultural goods to the Cubans.

Delaware Agriculture Secretary Michael Scuse says a trade mission two weeks ago by his department found a big market for one of the state's poultry industry.

Scuse says apples, soybeans and wheat are some other products that could be making their way from the first state to Havana ports in the very near future.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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