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  • By Lynda Kiernan-Stone, Global AgInvesting Media

U.S. Grain Industry Continues Campaign for Access to Cuban Market

Only 90 miles off the coast of the U.S and boasting 11 million consumers, Cuba is a promising potential market for the U.S. grain sector. The nation does not grow its own wheat and is the largest existing wheat market in the Caribbean, buying the bulk of its supply from Canada and Europe. However, it is estimated that the U.S. could garner up to 80% of the Cuban market if trade is normalized.

In light of this potential lying right off the U.S. coast, leaders representing the U.S. grain industry have joined with leaders from the agricultural machinery sector through the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) to campaign for the re-establishment of normal trade relations between the U.S. and Cuba.

“While solid data on Cuba’s economy remain elusive, we do know that Cuba has been one of the top 10 importers of US soybean oil, dry peas, dry beans, lentils, rice, powdered milk and poultry meat, said Thomas Marten, Manager, Stark County Farm Bureau in a September op-ed piece published in the Oilseed & Grain News. “Additionally, some project that if Cuba were to import all of their corn needs from the US they’d be one of our top 10 corn export markets.”

The USACC is functioning under the position that a normalization of trade between the U.S. and Cuba will benefit both countries – providing a new market outlet for U.S. grain farmers and ranchers, while increasing Cuba’s food security situation.

“Trade between Cuba and the U.S. is a win-win situation primarily because of the close proximity to one another. Fifty years is a long time. It is time to drop the embargo,” said former chairman of U.S. Wheat Associates at a recent USACC event, reports GrainNet.

With a recent thawing in relations between the two nations, U.S. farmers have reason to be optimistic that trade will eventually indeed be normalized, however challenges remain according to the U.S. Grains Council (USGC). Financial restrictions remain in place, in effect, hobbling the expansion of trade, however, in addition to financial hurdles, Cuba is also looking to expand its domestic grain production. In response, the U.S. Grains Council seized the opportunity to build Cuba’s own industry and inadvertently, increase demand for U.S. grains. For example, according to USGC data Cuba’s broiler and egg industries are underdeveloped, and the council is working with the Cuban government and its people to develop its domestic livestock and egg production, resulting in a stronger need for grain and feed.

"The administration has done what they can. The ball is in Congress,” said Brett Blankenship, president of the National Association of Wheat Growers, reports GrainNet. "That's why we are proud to be part of this collation to end the embargo. We all need to work together to ease trade restrictions."

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