Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Galesburg agribusiness remains cautious about Cuban deals

Galesburg agribusiness remains cautious about Cuban deals
AUGUST 8, 2016

GALESBURG, Illinois -

The snapshots tell quite a story about farming in Cuba.

"The corn is hand-planted, hand-harvested," said John Hennenfent.

Hennenfent, who presides over Munson Hybrids in Galesburg, recently
returned from an exchange trip to Cuba.

He joined a group from the Independent Professional Seed Association on
the four-day trip in July.

They observed farmers stuck with long-outdated concepts and technology.

"You'd have 15-foot-tall corn right next to knee-high corn in the same
field," he said.

Hennenfent wants to help change that.

"They just don't want us to come down and do it," he continued. "They
want to learn how to do it and be able to do it themselves."

In the short term, he thinks Illinois farms could benefit most by
selling corn to Cuba.

It will be tougher to start a seed corn operation there.

"There's not wealth there in private hands to be able to build a
business," he said. "It's going to have to start really small and start

The long term trade embargo remains the biggest obstacle to doing
business with Cuba.

That's because Cubans can't use credit.

Cuban deals could eventually be worth up to $120 million each year for
Illinois farms, but the unknown factor discourages investment.

"If I had the ability to go down there and build a plant, I don't
believe that I would own it," he said.

Hennenfent hopes that a Cuban delegation can visit Illinois farms in
time for the fall harvest.

For now, photos from his fact-finding trip detail possibilities and

He warns that change won't happen overnight in Cuba.

"It's really going to be a struggle for them," he concluded. "It's not
going to happen fast."

Source: Galesburg agribusiness remains cautious about Cuban deals | -
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