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Riceland’s VP Harris speaks on Cuba trade

WASHINGTON, D.C. ─ Tuesday night, USA Rice co-sponsored an event launching a week-long trade mission for Alimport, the Cuban food and agricultural trade agency. Delegates will visit Maryland, Missouri and Louisiana during the trip to tour important areas of U.S. agricultural production and transportation. Their itinerary also includes a stop in New Orleans for a lunch hosted by Russell Marine Group that many key U.S. rice exporters will attend.


USA Rice President and CEO Betsy Ward gave remarks at the event welcoming the delegation and highlighted USA Rice’s top legislative priority: Lifting the embargo against Cuba. Juan Leon, official ambassador of the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture, also spoke during the reception.

“The U.S. has great quality food, for instance, great quality long grain rice,” Leon commented, “and we think U.S. imports to Cuba will pick up again very soon.”

Terry Harris of Riceland Foods, Inc., who attended the event, agreed.

“The U.S. rice purchased by Cuba since 2001 has been the best into the country in decades, with a competitive price and with much quicker shipment and delivery,” he said.

Cuba last imported U.S. rice in 2008.

Harris added, “Alimport’s visit this week is a great opportunity to exchange information and lay the groundwork for cooperation when we overcome the partisan obstacles to exporting U.S. rice to Cuba again.”

Opponents of lifting the embargo often point to the political regime in Cuba as one of those obstacles. However, President Raúl Castro recently announced he will step down in two years, welcoming new ─ and younger ─ leadership there. During a speech to the Cuban Communist Party Congress over the weekend, Castro acknowledged, “concrete results in the dialogue and cooperation between the United States and Cuba.”

Coincidentally, Tuesday the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) released a report titled Overview of Cuban Imports of Goods and Services and Effects of U.S. Restrictions that suggested: “U.S. exports to Cuba could see significant gains from the removal of U.S. restrictions, particularly those related to credit financing. U.S. producers can offer a wide variety of high-quality goods, competitive prices, smaller shipments, lower transportation costs and faster delivery times.”

Ward concluded, “We see Alimport’s trade mission this week as a continuation of dialogue and cooperation. In light of the USITC report findings, the Castro announcement and Alimport’s visit are positive steps in U.S.-Cuba relations, and these developments bode well for future trade, travel and diplomatic relations.”

By Kristen Dayton, USA Rice Federation