The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) joined other food and agricultural organizations in support of additional changes in U.S. policy to facilitate U.S. dairy exports to Cuba and permit open travel for all Americans to that nation.
“Right now, the U.S. has been forced to largely cede this neighboring market to our competitors,” said Tom Suber, president of USDEC.
“Cuba has been importing approximately $200 million worth of dairy products in recent years, but virtually none of that has come from our exporters due to the restrictions they face in trading with Cuba.”
At present, agricultural producers who want to sell to Cuba must secure the cash in advance of shipping the product.
To make things more complicated,U.S. and Cuban banks have long been barred from doing business directly, so the cash advance must be processed through an intermediary bank. The fees associated with the transfers make importing goods more costly that it would be otherwise.
President Barack Obama’s proposal would allow U.S. banks to form direct relationships with banks in Cuba.
In addition to the embargo’s financial provisions, the NMPF, USDEC and IDFA said lifting travel restrictions could help U.S. agricultural exports by allowing exporters to more easily conduct business with Cuba and spurring greater demand for U.S. agricultural products in Cuba.
Dr. Parr Rosson, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service economist, said of the proposal, “The combination of allowing up to a four-fold increase in remittances along with an increased role for U.S. banks may lead to a 15 to 30 percent increase in U.S. food exports.”
Deputy Secretary Diane Bothfeld for Vermont’s Agency of Agriculture oversees dairy policy. She told the Times Argus News that she has identified several potential areas of interest for Cuban markets: genetics, powdered milk, whey and cheese.PD
—Summarized by Progressive Dairyman staff from cited sources