Per an announcement from the White House today, the United States will begin the process of normalizing its relations with Cuba. The announcement brings with it significant implications for the agricultural trade sector, and as producers of the nation’s leading farm export, the American Soybean Association (ASA) cheered the news with the following statement from President Wade Cowan: “Soybean growers are particularly excited about today’s announcement, specifically because of the promise that the Cuban marketplace holds for American beans, but also in the larger scope of trade’s ability to overcome even the most challenging geopolitical barriers. Trade builds bridges between nations, but it also generates real and concrete value for American farmers by expanding and strengthening our opportunities in foreign markets. Whether it’s the burgeoning Cuban demand for pork, poultry and dairy or that nation’s expanded demand for cooking oils, American soybeans have a significant market opening just off our own shores.
Cowan went ton to say, “More important in today’s announcement, however, are the implications for the Cuban people. While we have been able to sell our products in the country for decades, our Cuban customers were unable to secure the same financing and credit opportunities as other trade partners. Conversely, the restrictions on financing made it difficult for our products to compete in that marketplace. The easing of these restrictions will make it easier for American soy to gain a foothold in the market, but more importantly, it will enable the Cuban people to purchase the products that they need and want as their market develops.”
The National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) and U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) applaud President Obama’s announcement which will make it easier for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural products, including wheat. Cuba, which does not grow wheat commercially, is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean, purchasing almost all of its wheat from the European Union and Canada. Cuba could import at least 500,000 metric tons of wheat from the United States each year but has not purchased U.S. wheat since 2011. Under the current embargo, the United States can export agricultural products to Cuba through the use of third-party banking institutions, which makes facilitating trade burdensome and often more expensive.
“U.S. wheat farmers are excited about the prospect of exporting more wheat to Cuba,” says NAWG President Paul Penner. “NAWG has long supported strengthened trade relations with Cuba and see this as a historic step in that direction.”
“The U.S. wheat industry applauds these actions, which take concrete steps away from a policy approach towards Cuba that has accomplished little,” said USW President Alan Tracy. “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.”
US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Villsack said in a statement released late Wednesday, “Today’s announcement expands opportunity for U.S. farmers and ranchers to do business in Cuba. It removes technical barriers between U.S. and Cuban companies and creates a more efficient, less burdensome opportunity for Cuba to buy U.S. agricultural products. It also makes those products far more price competitive, which will expand choices for Cuban shoppers at the grocery store and create a new customer base for America’s farmers and ranchers.”