Alabama Farmers Demand More Trade with Cuba


7-31-07, 9:49 am

Washington, Jul 31 (Prensa Latina) Two widely distributed newspapers, USA Today and the Montgomery Advertiser from Alabama report that farmers of that state are demanding more trade without restrictions with Cuba.

The Advertiser in an editorial article and USA Today in a report from Alabama, both agree that the 45-year-old embargo needlessly limits commerce with Cuba and is 'a demonstrated failure that should have been abandoned long ago.'

There's potential for much more trade because, 'Cuba is a natural trading partner,' said state Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks, long an advocate of expanded trade. 'The Port of Mobile is 600 miles from Cuba. It takes two days for a ship to make the trip,' highlights the Agriculture Commissioner.

Cuba is going to import foodstuffs, forest products and the other things it can't produce internally from somewhere, so why not from Alabama producers, who are well positioned not only to make the needed products, but also to ship them out of Mobile?, asks the newspaper.

The world is a vastly different place now and a Cold War-era policy that was ineffective then isn't going to miraculously start working now, comments the paper.

As Sparks noted, Alabama's trade with Cuba is not fueling some military threat to the United States. 'We're not selling them bullets or tanks or aircraft,' he said. 'We're selling them peanut butter, syrup and shingles. Alabama has shipped 25 million utility poles to Cuba.'

Alabama producers did about $120 million in business with Cuba in 2006. The potential for far greater trade is undeniable. ' I think it's time we ended the embargo,' Sparks said.

No one, least of all Alabama producers, benefits from this outdated and glaringly ineffective policy, concludes the editorial.

For its part, USA Today published a report on Monday interviewing poultry and cattle farmer in northern Alabama, Dorman Grace, who wonders how chickens may play a role in ending the US trade embargo on Cuba.

Many like Grace are already able to do business with Cuba under a law passed by Congress in 2000 allowing the sale of humanitarian and agricultural products to the island nation, which slightly eased the trade embargo in place since 1962.

Alabama businesses exported $100 million or more of goods to Cuba in each of the past three years, according to state figures.

USA Today recalls that a 2005 Texas A and M study showed Arkansas leading the exports to Cuba,. Followed by California, Iowa and Texas, while Alabama farmers would like to see that business expand further.

Last year, 66% of the wheat imported by Cuba came from the USA. Other staples imported included: corn, 71%; rice, 77%; poultry, 65%; pork, 42%; soybeans, 100%; and animal feed, 76%, according to a July U.S. International Trade Commission report, quoted by the newspaper.

Sales have been somewhat limited by requirements that Cuba make the payments in full before shipments leave American ports, admits the USA Today report.

From Prensa Latina

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