By Brandi Hart | McKinney Courier-Gazette
Frank Walker Sr. of McKinney is joining a group of 23 Texans that include food manufacturer representatives and officials with the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Texas Farm Bureau who will visit Cuba this month to try open trade with the country’s government officials.
Walker, president of Walker LTD, a local food manufacturer representative company, will travel to Havana, Cuba from May 26 to May 31. He will meet with Cuban governmental officials and will represent a sausage manufacturer based in Ponder, a dessert manufacturer based in Humble and a manufacture of frozen, custom ethnic entrees’, soups and vegetables based in McKinney, and discuss selling those companies’ products.
This will be Walker’s first visit to Cuba, which he is looking forward to as he is hoping to observe Cuban food manufacturers. Walker also hopees to get a taste of the Cuban cuisine as his clients will tailor their products for the Cuban citizen.
He is expecting to meet with four to five food manufacturers representatives per day during his trip, Walker said.
“We already know who we’re competing against. Cuba does a lot of business with South American countries who sell chicken, sausage and Asian countries who sell rice,” Walker said.
Walker, who is also a member of the McKinney Rotary Club, also hopes to sell flour-based pasta products to the Cuban government to help offset the high cost of rice in the country, Walker said.
“Look what’s going on in the rice industry worldwide,” Walker said. “The price is rising because of the cost to transport products and high gas prices, and America’s insatiable appetite for fuel.”
The Cuban government will pay cash for products, which it serves to its population of about 1.2 million, Walker said. If America were to open up trade in Cuba, the population of the country would probably have a middle class, Walker said.
Cuba also opened up huge deposits of off-shore oil sources two years ago and he is guessing that the United States will not be one of the countries that Cuba will sell oil to, Walker said.
“It probably won’t be the United States because of our lack of open trade policies with Cuba,” Walker said. “Cuba was one of the original members of the World Trade Organization.”
Getting the chance to meet Raul Castro, the current president of the Cuban Council of State, and his brother, former Cuban President Fidel Castro, wouldn’t be bad either.
“I’m hoping to meet Raul Castro and to get my picture taken with him and his brother,” Walker said.
Walker will join the following Texans on his trip to Cuba:
Todd Staples, the commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture
Kelley Stripling, senior advisor of the TDOA
Mary Theresa Ovalle, director of international marketing of the TDOA
Cary Pupuy, governmental liaison of the TDOA
C. Parr Rosson, director of Texas A & M University’s Center for North American Studies
Cynthia Thomas, delegation leader of TriDimension Strategies, LLC
Stephen Pringle, Gus Glen Jones, Jr., Kenneth Dierschke, Billy Brown, Raymond Meyer, Dan Shelton, Gary McGehee, all of the Texas Farm Bureau
John Chumbley, president of Dorchester Grain
Samuel Brian McCuistion, general manager of the Planters Coop
Louis Broussard, president of Beaumont Rice Mill
Rosalee King Coleman, vice president of Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas
Ernest Bezdek, director of trade development of Port of Beaumont
Michael David Perez, director of business operations of Port of Corpus Christi
Michael Edward, director of trade development of the Port of Freeport
Dale Grounds, president of Paul Reinhart, Inc, a cotton exporter
Michelle Tubilla, president of Moose Milk
Karen Provost, president of the Wimberly Lavender Farm