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Posted January 27, 2009 by publisher in Cuba-US Trade

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Fanny S. Chirinos | TheCaller.com

About 5,000 tons of pinto beans will leave the Port of Corpus Christi this evening and arrive in the Port of Santiago de Cuba by Saturday evening. The shipment is the first to head for Cuba this year.

Corpus Christi-based WestStar Foods began loading the sacks of beans on Monday aboard the MCP Famagusta, a vessel chartered by Register International. Pat Walleson, WestStar’s managing partner, said he expects to ship an additional 5,000 to 15,000 tons to Cuba this year.

“We would love to ship smaller tonnages of packaged beans,” said Walleson, as he oversaw the loading of the 100-pound bags at the dock.

The four-day trip to the island will mark the 92nd charter to Cuba for Register International, said its president, Sean Register. The Corpus Christi port in 2003 became the first U.S. port to sign a trade agreement with Cuba.

“This is not only good for the Port of Corpus Christi but for America,” Register said after receiving a “first-call” plaque from port officials. “We’re here because of the port’s marketing efforts. (The Cubans) trust (Register and the Port of Corpus Christi) and that means a lot when doing business with them.”

Michael Perez, the port’s director of business development, said Cuban officials always are looking at getting the best product at lower prices. Having a good history with them helps, he added.

“The more we’ll buy, the more we’ll ship,” Perez said. “We hope to do at least 5,000 tons a quarter, about a $4 million load.”

Port officials welcomed officials from WestStar, Register and guests during a ceremony Monday morning. Attending the event were port commissioners Judy Hawley, Francis Gandy and Richard Borchard and port chairman Ruben Bonilla.

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