State officials have announced a $3.5 million trade deal with Cuba involving more than 25,000 metric tons of Kansas wheat.
The deal, reached late last week and announced Friday, includes 10,000 metric tons from the Garden City Co-Op, with the rest of the grain being shipped from Wichita and Salina.
“We’re excited a new market is opening,” said John McClelland, manager of the cooperative. “There’s just a lot of optimism right now in southwest Kansas.”
Lt. Gov. John Moore said Cuban officials requested that part of the 125,000-metric-ton purchase from the United States include Kansas wheat.
“We will continue to pursue this as a market plan for Kansas,” Moore said outside Garden City Co-Op as a grain truck was being filled with wheat. But, he said, U.S. restrictions need to be lifted in order to increase trade with the communist country.
Republican Kansas lawmakers, Sen. Pat Roberts and Rep. Jerry Moran, have introduced legislation to ease limitations in doing business with Cuba. It would change the way Cuba pays American farmers for food.
Until last year, the practice had been for Cuba to pay for commodity shipments in transit or after they arrived at a Cuban port, but before the goods had exchanged hands.
However, those opposed of trade with the country argue that the 2000 law allowing food sales calls for cash in advance - not credit - before agriculture products leave the United States.
“If we could ease the restrictions, it could make the Kansas market bigger,” Moore said.
Cuba imports more than 1.1 million tons of wheat a year from countries around the globe, said David Frey, executive director of the Kansas Wheat Commission.
“We aren’t even there yet, regarding potential,” Frey said of trade.