Thursday, 25 December 2014

U.S. agriculture has big appetite for Cuba trade

Cuba remains a poor, relatively small country, Rosson said. Its economy shifts depending on remittances sent home by Cubans abroad, tourism and nickel exports, he said.
But liberalized rules for remittances and tourism should provide an early boost in demand, he said, and easier banking rules eventually will make a difference too. The boost would be even bigger if Congress ever dismantles the embargo, he said.
“We’re talking a monumental move to lift the embargo right now,” he said. “But things can change.”
Wheat growers in the Midwest expect new export opportunities since Cuba now buys nearly all its wheat from Canada and Europe. Cuba hasn’t bought U.S. wheat since 2011, but could import at least 500,000 metric tons of it annually, according to the National Association of Wheat Growers.
“If Cuba resumes purchases of U.S. wheat, we believe our market share there could grow from its current level of zero to around 80-90 percent, as it is in other Caribbean nations,” Alan Tracy, president of U.S. Wheat Associates, said in a statement.
Dry beans, dry peas, lentils and potatoes are big parts of the Cuban diet. That creates more opportunities for farmers in colder states such as North Dakota, though they’ll still have to compete with cheaper Chinese beans, said Bill Thoreson, president of the U.S. Dry Bean Council.
“If we have normalized trade relations with them and are able to do away with some of the banking regulations, I believe there’s some real potential to do business with Cuba,” Thoreson said.
Rice producers in southern states and California are hoping to resume exports to Cuba for the first time since 2008, according to the USA Rice Federation.
“It’s an enormous rice market,” said Dwight Roberts, CEO of the U.S. Rice Producers Association. Roberts said he believes imports of U.S. rice someday could reach the levels Cubans bought before the revolution.

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