Two months after the Obama Administration's announcement that it would seek to normalize trade relations with Cuba, the U.S. grain industry is making moves to seize the opportunity for increased exports there.
An exploratory mission with representatives from across the U.S. agriculture sector departed March 1 for Cuba to meet with industry leaders and reengage the U.S. agricultural sector with Cuban officials.
Ron Gray, U.S. Grains Council chairman and a farmer from Illinois, and Marri Carrow, USGC regional director for the Western Hemisphere, will represent the Council on the team.
The Council is also planning a follow-up mission for its officers and delegates from its associated grower organizations. In addition, Council staff will complete targeted trade servicing visits to help assess and build plans to address marketing, finance and education barriers to increased sales.
Cuba has purchased corn from the United States since the early 2000s with market share varying widely from as high as 100% to just 15% last marketing year. The country has purchased distiller's dried grains with solubles from the United States since 2005. If Cuba purchased all of its imported corn from the United States, it would be the 12th largest overseas market for the product.
The primary issue standing in the way of increasing U.S. market share is financing restrictions, USGC said. While payment rules that require cash to be transferred before the product arrives at the port are being eased under the new Administration's new initiative, full removal of the embargo will require Congressional action.
The buzz about the potential for U.S. agriculture in Cuba extended to discussions at the 2015 Commodity Classic, the annual convention for corn, sorghum, soybean and wheat growers held last week in Phoenix.
Those organizations as well as most mainstream farm groups support removing the long-standing trade barriers with Cuba and have indicated their plans to work with Members of Congress on appropriate legislative action.
Source: U.S. Grains Council