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Posted November 05, 2003 by publisher in Business In Cuba

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HAVANA, Nov. 4 (Xinhuanet)—The Cuban authorities said Tuesday that if Washington lifts its embargo on the island, it would become an important market for agricultural products from the United States, particularly rice.

  With the end of the embargo, Cuba would increase its rice imports from the United States to over 300,000 tons every year, Pedro Alvarez, director of Cuban state-run company Alimport said.

  Alvarez made the remarks at a press conference with US rice producers participating in the 21st International Fair of Havana.

  “Should there be no restrictions imposed by Washington over four decades ago, the United States could have become our second or third most important supplier of rice,” Alvarez said.

  Alimport’s executive said the island needs to import half a million tons of rice annually.

  He revealed that over the last two years, business between bothsides totaled 554 million US dollars and the amount is expected toincrease to over 620 million dollars this year.

Marvin Lehrer, president of the US Federation of Rice Producers,said he was pleased with the business with the Cuban company and demanded an end to the blockade led by Washington against Cuba.

  The businessman, who headed a US delegation to an expo Havana, said his presence in the island is a new demonstration of the interest of US agricultural producers to do business with Cuba.

  A blockade imposed by the United States on Cuba in 1962 has barred normal trade between the two countries, which have maintained a four-decade political conflict.

  Cuban officials have said the Caribbean country is ready to import up to 60 percent of agricultural and food products from the United States if these restrictions are removed.

  After Hurricane Michelle ripped through Cuba in November 2001, Washington offered humanitarian assistance to Cuba. Cuba thanked the United States for its goodwill gesture, but opted to purchase what it needed directly from the US market.

  The granting of licenses by the US Departments of State and Treasury led to unprecedented commercial exchanges between the twocountries which do not have formal diplomatic relations.

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