SEAFOOD.COM NEWS February 27, 2003 - By Ken Coons - The first shipment of seafood from the U.S. to Cuba since 1959 left Los Angeles this week. According to Reuters, the consulting group Global Strategies Trading of San Diego negotiated the seafood agreement in September at the first U.S. food fair in Havana during Castro’s rule.
The frozen seafood, shipped by Los Angeles based City SeaFoods, was hailed by Cuban officials as a significant step in the expansion of U.S.-Cuba trade since sanctions were eased two years ago to allow food sales on a cash basis only.
The seafood will be sold in dollar-priced supermarkets in Cuba or consumed by tourists in the island’s seaside resort hotels.
Since December 2001 Cuba has purchased and signed contracts for the delivery of $250 million in U.S. food products, mainly grains, cereals, chicken and animal feed, but also soft drinks, biscuits and candy.
That figure includes Cuban shipping and insurance costs. The U.S. Department of Commerce reported net food sales to Cuba amounted to $138 million last year.
Seeking to encourage U.S. support for an end to what it calls the American ‘blockade,’ the Castro government has spread its purchases over more than 35 U.S. states.
President George W. Bush last year vowed to veto any further easing of the embargo until Castro allows democratic reforms.
But farm and food industry groups, joined by religious and other anti-embargo groups in the United States, have gathered support that might lead to enough votes to override a presidential veto in Congress.
The next battle is expected to be fought over lifting a travel ban. Cuba is banking on the arrival of millions of U.S. tourists to earn dollars to pay for more imports of U.S. food, a drive backed by the U.S. farm lobby.