Friday, November 11, 2005

Trip to Cuba Produces $23 Million in Deals

Trip to Cuba Produces $23 Million in Deals

By David Irvin, Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.

Nov. 10--A delegation of Alabama state officials returned from Cuba this
month with some positive news: $23 million in trade deals with Cuba's
import company, Alimport.

According to department officials, Alabama officials joined delegations
from four other states to participate in the 23rd Havana International
Fair, which included products from more than 100 countries.

"This trade fair turned out to be a big success for Alabama's farmers,"
Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks said in a statement.

"Our poultry and timber industry have done an especially remarkable
job," he said. "The (department) will continue to help support all of
our agricultural growers and producers to increase their exports to Cuba
and around the world."

This was the sixth trip to Cuba for Sparks. Since he began, he has seen
annual poultry exports to the country increase by a factor of 50, he said.

About 40 percent of all poultry sold to Cuba comes from Alabama,
department officials said. That growth in trade, Sparks believes, is
creating jobs in Alabama.

Since trade restrictions with Cuba were relaxed in 2001, the department
has worked toward establishing more trade with Cuba, officials said.

However, some U.S. trade restrictions still hamper commerce between
Alabama and the Fidel Castro-led Cuba, Sparks said.

One deal evaporated because of those trade restrictions, Sparks said.

"We lost a deal to Korea for about $35 million because we can't get
generators on the list," Sparks said.

Last year, Alabama realized an economic impact of more than $300 million
from trade with Cuba, department officials said.

Nearly all utility poles bought by Cuba in the past two years have come
from Alabama, officials said.

Alabama has a good advantage trading with Cuba because of the close
proximity of the port of Mobile and the island nation, Sparks said. He
wants other nations to know Alabama is a good place to do business.

"Not only did Cuba see us, other countries got to see us," Sparks said.


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