NEW YORK.–The President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, held a friendly and constructive meeting September 27 with representatives of the U.S. agricultural sector, organized by the United States Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA).
On welcoming the guests to the Cuban Mission to the United Nations, the President described this meeting with “one of the sectors that has most advocated U.S. relations with Cuba,” as vital.
He stressed that this is “the sector with which we have had the possibility of economic and commercial exchanges, although very limited.”
Díaz-Canel recalled that “there were times when we imported goods worth more than 1.1 billion dollars in a single year from the United States, a figure that has been decreasing because, with the blockade restrictions, we are forced to pay in cash and the amounts are also limited.”
Regardless of the tightening of this hostile policy and the measures the current U.S. administration has adopted against Cuba, the President reiterated: “We are still open to dialogue.”
He added, “At no moment will we close off the possibility of talks, but always on the basis of respect, without conditions and without impositions.”
Díaz-Canel also acknowledged the important role of the U.S. agricultural sector in the continued struggle for an end to the blockade: “It’s very important that people like you can visit Cuba, that we can converse, exchange, so that our reality is truly known and, based on that, we can create all the strength and build the unity that will allow us to end the blockade.”
The Cuban President noted that the island currently has to import more than 2 billion dollars worth of food annually, “under very complex conditions, with countries that are located at a great distance, where the freight costs are very high, where, in fact, they raise the prices, as they know the needs and limitations we have.”
He noted that, despite its small size, the Cuban market is secure and offers many opportunities in terms of supplying a population of 11 million people.
The statesman noted that trade would be mutually beneficial. What bother us and hurts, he emphasized, is that sometimes a ship loaded with food from the United States arrives to Cuba, because we have been able to purchase it, and then it returns empty to the U.S., when it could return filled with our goods.
He also explained that technological transfers and scientific exchanges are another opportunity, as although Cuba has very modest resources, it has advanced scientific development.
The Cuban President concluded that the island’s delegation had brought to New York a message of peace, of unity, of understanding and also a call to action.
The meeting was attended, among others, by NASDA CEO Barbara Glenn; USACC Chair Paul Johnson; CEO of the U.S. Grains Council Thomas Sleight; and the Agriculture Commissioners of the States of Connecticut, Virginia and New Mexico.
Thanks to the efforts of this sector, sales of U.S. agricultural products and food to Cuba began in 2001, which are carried out in only one direction, due to the continued ban on Cuba exporting goods to the U.S.
The U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee recently adopted amendments to its farm bill that, if passed by the House of Representatives, would allow the use of trade promotion programs of U.S. goods in Cuba.
This amendment, which is a step in the right direction, is still far from facilitating agricultural trade with Cuba and the provision of private credits, as demanded by the U.S. agricultural community.
- In March of 2015, a delegation of almost one hundred people representing the U.S. agricultural sector visited Cuba and held a series of meetings with Cuban representatives with the purpose of exploring trade and exchange opportunities.
- In October 2015, the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act (for the exportation of agricultural products to Cuba), was submitted to Congress by Republican representative from Arkansas, Rick Crawford.
- In February 2016, United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack noted that there was great potential for sales of Cuban organic products in the United States, but the that current laws prevented such trade.
- In June, the Cuban Minister of Agriculture visited the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
- In September of that same year, during the first bilateral economic talks between Cuba and the United States, agriculture was one of the topics discussed, as of interest to both parties.
- In December 2017, Republican Representative Rick Crawford stressed the importance of the U.S. Congress passing the Cuba Agricultural Exports Act, focused on promoting private financing of sales to the island.
- In April 2018, both countries again exchanged on cooperation in agriculture.
BLOCKADE DAMAGES TO AGRICULTURE
During the period June 2017 through March 2018, losses in this sector amounted to 413,793,100 dollars, representing an increase of 66,195,100 dollars on the previous period.