In a meeting hosted by USDA and economists from the University of Havana and the University of Florida, USA Rice Federation learned that improved access to better technologies and farming practices, more efficient use of existing farm land and reduction of idle land are the main goals for Cuba's agricultural policy in the immediate future. The Cuban government has supported these measures by incentivizing urban population to move into the country and undertake agricultural production. Even with increased domestic agriculture production, however, Cuba will continue to see its need for imported foods grow, which provides an opportunity for U.S. agricultural producers.
Cuba imports half of its citizens' caloric needs and with outdated technology and workforce limitations, there is an opportunity for a mutually beneficial relationship focused on agricultural trade. However, for this to materialize and reach full potential, there must be a change in U.S. policy toward trade and commercial relations with Cuba.
The U.S. Treasury Department's reinterpretation in 2005 of the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act (TSREEA) -- requiring payment through third-country banks in advance of shipment -- has been a factor in the decline of U.S. rice exports from 176,000 MT in 2004 to less than 13,000 MT in 2008, with no trade since 2009, negatively impacting economic activity and jobs. USA Rice strongly supports the removal of statutory and regulatory restrictions on direct trade with Cuba, the clarification of Congress's intent to legalize agricultural sales to Cuba, and the liberalization of travel licensing and payment rules concerning U.S. agricultural sales to Cuba.
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