Thursday, May 31, 2007

Cuba to buy $118 million in U.S. food

Posted on Wed, May. 30, 2007

Cuba to buy $118 million in U.S. food
Associated Press Writer

Cuba agreed Wednesday to buy $118 million in U.S. food products ranging
from pork and corn to soybeans and Spam, and said it was negotiating
deals that could bring the total to nearly $150 million.

"The sales this week went beyond all of our expectations," said Jim
Sumner of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, one of more than 200
Americans from 25 states who visited Havana for talks with communist
officials. "When the embargo is lifted, which we hope will be very soon,
these deals will be much greater."

Although Washington's 45-year-old embargo remains, U.S. food and
agricultural products can be sold directly to Cuba under a law passed by
Congress in 2000. Since 2001, Havana says it has spent more than $2.2
billion on American farm products and related costs.

A smiling Pedro Alvarez, chairman of the Cuban food import company
Alimport, said Americans are "recovering the market" they lost in the
1960s with the imposition of the embargo.

"The active and massive participation of the American business community
makes us very happy," said Alvarez, whose company organized the latest
round of negotiations with U.S. farm producers.

Cuba expects this year to match the $570 million it spent in 2006 on
American food and agricultural products, including shipping and banking

Cuban Commerce Minister Raul de la Nuez said most of the food would be
sold at heavily subsidized prices, on the government's food ration and
at public schools and workplace dining rooms.

"This will help feed our people," De la Nuez said.

"We have a common goal of normalized relations between the United States
and Cuba," Kirby Jones, founder of the U.S.-Cuba Trade Association in
Washington, told the gathering. "One day, we hope there will be free and
open trade."

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