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Trade Mission Highlights Benefits of Trading with Cuba

The National Association of State Departments of Agriculture recently led a trade mission to Cuba with the hopes of eventually improving trade between the two neighbors. NASDA CEO Ted McKinney talked about why they took a trade trip to the island nation.

He says, “This time, we had seven of our members, always we take a special guest, and the idea is to go learn, network, and build trust, build friendships, and identify the market for sure. And then, to the degree that there are any policy things that we can help with – not negotiate – but there’s a lot we can do in support, and that’s what we’re doing, and that’s why we went to Cuba.”

He said Cuba makes a lot of sense as a trading partner. McKinney, “The logical reasons are it is so very close to the U.S. The second reason is there is a great need. It is much, much greater as things are not well in food and agriculture in Cuba, we learned. And gosh, we trade with all kinds of people. We trade with countries that are our friends, we trade with countries that are so-called foes, and it would seem logical that that close, that needy, that Cuba might be one.”

Cuba has a great deal of commodity needs that U.S. farmers would be happy to fill according to McKinney. He said, “I start with protein. Now, they are buying a lot of our chicken. Many people do not know that. It’s almost all quarter legs. They can do it cheaper from us than they can with their own farmers. Right now, they don’t have the hard currency to buy feed, so they are down 90, that’s nine-zero percent in pork production. They’re down very substantially in poultry, so we are still supplying as we were and have been for many years, a lot of poultry. There is some rice going there. We heard that there were a few containers of eggs that went there. I mean shell eggs in containers. Feed grains. They need feed.”

In recent years, the Cuban government has made notable changes in policies. He’s hopeful it’s the first step to eventually thawing relations between the North American neighbors.

McKinney says, “The key to this, and most people do not know this, is that under then-President Raul Castro, it has changed. There’s a new one now, but he’s continuing Raul Castro’s philosophy. They changed the Constitution to allow for private entities. It doesn’t all have to go through the federal government and then out to people. And there have been several thousand private businesses that popped up. The same could be said for cooperatives, and they’re fairly similar to cooperatives as we know it. There are some that are very tied to the government. There are others that are not tied to the government.”

Story provided by NAFB News Service

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