The prospect of Cuban trade for U.S. food and agriculture communities is expanding. The White House announced new proposals that took effect this week, lifting trade restrictions with Cuba.
Cuba, only 90 miles across the Gulf, represents a logical market and offers valuable trade opportunities for U.S. food and agricultural products.
The Obama administration lifted the six-month waiting period for foreign ships to return to the U.S. after visiting Cuba, according to Agri-Pulse. The regulatory changes also make it easier to sell farm equipment and pesticides to Cuba.
Lifting the shipping restriction is good news for agriculture. The waiting period has caused problems for some U.S. agricultural exporters.
“Now if it goes from the United States with chicken, it’s got to go to Cuba and then somewhere else in the world for six months before it can come back to (to the U.S),” Doug Keesling, state support committee chairman of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba, told Agri-Pulse.
Though lifting the shipping restriction will be beneficial to U.S. farm exporters, it will not be very effective until Congress also lifts the financing restrictions imposed in the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act, according to David Salmonsen, a senior director for Congressional Relations at the American Farm Bureau Federation.
“For food or agricultural commodities, the restrictions that are in the TSRA (Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act) still apply,” Salmonsen said. “That’s the main thing.”
The act was passed in 2000, and it allowed the U.S. to export farm goods to Cuba, but U.S. banks could not finance those sales. Cuba is required to pay up front with cash for goods or use third-party financing.
This financial restriction is the biggest barrier that prevents selling more corn, wheat, rice, poultry, dairy and other commodities to Cuba.
The new regulatory changes remove the financing restrictions on farm equipment, but are expected to have little impact.
Cuba cannot afford to make substantial tractor purchases right now, an official in the farm equipment sector told Agri-Pulse.
These new proposals will help improve trade relations with Cuba and will further strengthen the ties between the U.S. and the island nation.
“More commercial activity between the U.S. and Cuba benefits our people and our economies,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker said in a statement.