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Cuba could be powerful trade ally for Bayou State

5 months 4 weeks 1 day ago July 26, 2016 Jul 26, 2016 Tuesday, July 26 2016 July 26, 2016 2:23 PM in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE - Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M. just returned from a visit to the island nation of Cuba where he led a delegation to promote agricultural trade, economic development and tourism.

“We accomplished a great deal during our short visit to Cuba, including opening a dialog with Cuban officials and developing business relationships,” Strain said. “Also, we have a better understanding of what the country’s needs are - and how Louisiana can fulfill those needs - by visiting places such as an organic farm, tobacco and corn farm, farmers market, grocery store and the port in Mariel.”

“Trade barriers between the U.S. and Cuba could be relaxed in the near future,” continued Strain. “It is critical to establish these important business relationships now in order to gain access to new market opportunities for our Louisiana agricultural producers when it does.”

Cuba imports 80 percent of its produce. A big point of attraction for Louisiana farmers could be the fact that Cuba currently imports its rice from Vietnam. $73 million of rice enter the nation per year and the average consumer eats more than 177 pounds of rice annually, making Cubans the highest consumers of rice in the western hemisphere. Other commodities such as wheat, corn, pork, poultry, soybeans, petroleum and mechanical implements are also in need in the country. Louisiana’s close proximity to Cuba is also a factor that would make the two parties ideal partners for trade.

The main obstacle to doing business with Cuba at this point revolves around third-party financing and issues with credit, according to LDAF. In other words, the island is cash-poor, says Strain.

“We can benefit the people of both Louisiana and Cuba through trade with Cuba. While we cannot import from Cuba under the U.S. embargo, there are some current opportunities to export some staple Louisiana products such as rice and poultry.  Over the last decade, Louisiana has led all other states in exports to Cuba, and we hope the next 10 years will be equally productive,” William Marshall with Louisiana Economic Development (LED) said,

In 1958, Tulane researchers found that a third of all trade passing through the Port of New Orleans was destined for Cuba.

Strain said Louisiana must continue to develop its trade relationship with Cuba, and identify which businesses can be developed within the country. After that, it will be a matter of securing the proper licenses to do business. Gov. John Bel Edwards has planned a visit in October to continue to work on ironing out trade agreements.

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