NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Food Companies Hungry for Cuban Market

February 18, 2003

As the 40-year-old U.S. trade embargo on Cuba is slowly crumbling, scores of U.S. farmers and business executives are rushing to cash in. Texas farmers recently formed the Texas-Cuba Trade Alliance to seek nearly $60 million in potential business on the communist-controlled Caribbean island.

New U.S. laws began allowing food shipments in late 2001 and American companies responded by selling nearly $250 million in food products to Cuba last year.

  • The food conglomerate Cargill sent 200,000 tons of corn, wheat, soy meal, vegetable oil, turkey and other products to Cuba in 2002.
  • Another company, Archer Daniels Midland Co., shipped rice, wheat, corn, soybeans, navy beans and other goods worth more than $75 million last year.
  • All told, Cuba imports about $1 billion in food products, and Cuban officials say U.S. producers might be able to gain up to three quarters of that market thanks to their efficiency and proximity.
  • Experts at Texas A&M University believe that food and agricultural exports from Texas to Cuba could reach $57 million and generate 1,500 new jobs, and shipments could include rice, wheat, beef, chicken, fertilizers and softwood logs and lumber.

Skeptics, however, warn that if it's challenging to do business in most emerging markets, it's even harder in Cuba. The island is home to a communist dictatorship under Fidel Castro. Critics say he has a history of not paying his bills.

Source: Brendan M. Case, Alfredo Corchado and Tracey Eaton, "Cuban market entices U.S. traders: Texas farmers see deals worth millions as embargo crumbles," Dallas Morning News, February 17, 2003.


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