USA Rice Federation's Marvin Lehrer met last week with top Cuban officials for rice trade discussions.  Lehrer's visit coincided with recently announced economic reforms that will make widespread positive changes in opening the Cuban economy, including allowing private sales of property and permitting Cubans to open their own small businesses.  These changes bode well for Cuba and the opportunities to increase U.S. rice sales in the country, which have suffered from a recent economic downturn.

"We welcome a friend back to Cuba and greatly appreciate all that USA Rice is doing to bring about a normalization of trade with us," said Estrella Madrigal Valdes, president of the Cuban Chamber of Commerce.  "You are a strong leader in this effort."

Lehrer also met Wednesday at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to discuss trade issues.

"Marvin knows us well and we appreciate USA Rice's strong leadership on opening two-way trade and visits to our country," said Eddy Padron, U.S. desk ministry of foreign affairs.  "This will allow us the foreign exchange necessary to increase our purchases of U.S. products."

Lehrer will continue meetings in Havana this week with the Ministry of Agriculture, the Cuban Chefs Federation and others.