The first shipment of Florida-bred cattle to Cuba in more than 40 years was leaving Friday from this port near Fort Lauderdale.
Twenty-two beef cattle were on a cargo chip for the three-day trip to Havana, said J.P. Wright & Co. Inc., which has a contract to ship the livestock under an exemption to the long-standing U.S. trade embargo on Cuba.
The six bulls and 16 heifers were raised in Florida’s prime cattle country of Levy, St. Lucie, Suwannee and Highlands counties, said John Parke Wright IV, owner of the Naples-based company.
The shipment is the first part of a nearly $1 million order totaling 300 head of Florida-bred cattle. The rest is expected to ship within the next few months.
Wright’s ancestors shipped cattle to the Caribbean nation starting in the 1850s, because Florida-bred livestock was suited to the similar tropical climate in Cuba.
But trade was halted by the U.S. embargo imposed after communist leader Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. A law passed in 2000 lets U.S. farmers and companies sell livestock and agricultural and food products to Cuba on a cash-only basis.
Wright has been pushing for full re-established trade between the two rival nations. In the meantime, he says U.S. farmers are supplying food for average Cubans.
“America’s ranchers and farmers have established respected and common grounds of friendship and open market business intentions with the Cuban people, especially in agriculture,” he said.
But many Cuban-Americans contend that the farm sales only benefit the communist nation’s elite, including Castro. They believe the trade restrictions must be tightened to topple Castro’s government and bring democracy to the island.