The Associated Press
WASHINGTON · U.S. companies sold food worth $138.6 million to Cuba in 2002 and are on track for a 19 percent increase in sales this year despite Fidel Castro’s recent crackdown on dissidents.
The Castro government’s behavior during the past month—including executing three men convicted of terrorism in the attempted hijacking of a ferry filled with passengers bound for the United States—makes it unlikely that Congress will further relax the 42-year-old trade embargo against Cuba. It is equally unlikely that members will restrict sales of farm commodities to a nation that quickly has become a big customer of American wheat, corn, chicken, soybeans and rice.
Congress in 2000 allowed sales of U.S. farm commodities to Cuba but limited them to cash-only deals. That restriction actually has proved to be good for U.S. companies, said John Kavulich, president of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.
“Cuba is one of the safest export markets in the world for U.S. companies today, because the law requires cash-only transactions,” Kavulich said. “So there is no risk to exporting products to Cuba. No other country in the world that trades to Cuba can say that.”
The law does not limit the quantity or value of food and farm products that can be sold to Cuba, which became the 50th largest farm export market for U.S. companies in 2002, compared with No. 144 in 2001.
Wheat was the No. 1 commodity sold to Cuba last year, accounting for almost $23 million in sales. Corn was second at about the same amount, followed by poultry at almost $22 million.