Cuba Buys U.S. Wheat
For the first time in four decades, Cuba has purchased U.S. wheat.
According to USDA, Cuba bought 50,000 metric tons of hard red winter wheat in November.
ALIMPORT, the Cuban agency responsible for wheat purchases, had requested assistance from U.S. Wheat Associates a week before the purchase. The sale followed intensive discussions, meetings and phone calls between the governments, the trade, agricultural organizations and the business community. While celebrating the extraordinary development, U.S. Wheat Associates warns that complicated restrictions and regulations still must be ironed out, and work continues. Still, in conversations with USW, all federal agencies have indicated that, due to its humanitarian nature, the activities necessary to implement the sale are a high priority.
The wheat sales, part of a larger “shopping trip” by the Cubans, will assist the island after it was ravaged by Hurricane Michelle in November.
“After all the time and effort we’ve spent preparing for this day, it is fantastic that we are able to help when it counts the most,” says U.S. Wheat Associates Chairman Henry Jo Von Tungeln, a wheat producer from Oklahoma.
Von Tungeln and other USW representatives traveled to Havana 13 months ago, to learn more about the Cuban market in anticipation of the day when the U.S. government would lift sanctions imposed in the
early 1960s. USW has made several market exploration visits to Cuba in the last three years, and helped to facilitate humanitarian shipments of wheat flour in 1998. While sanctions are still in place, though eased,
the U.S. government has made an exception to the regulations for the November U.S. wheat sale because of the humanitarian situation.
“The wheat industry will continue to push for unrestricted agricultural trade with Cuba, but we are encouraged that trade is now proven possible when there is the political will to make it happen,” says
Alan Tracy, USW president. “We hold out hope that they can become regular customers at some point. When that day comes, it will benefit both U.S. agriculture and the Cuban people.”