Cuba's needs match Alabama's products
A little home cooking never hurts. On a visit to Cuba last week,
Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks and staff prepared a traditional
Southern meal with Alabama products for government officials as part of
the ongoing effort to increase trade with the island nation.
The meal might have won over some palates — it's hard to beat fried
catfish, cornbread, butter beans, green bean casserole, coleslaw, pecan
pie and sweet tea — but the real selling point for Alabama is the
exceptionally good match between the needs of Cuba and the products
Alabama has to offer. Sparks is absolutely correct to continue pursuing
expanded trade with Cuba.
"Over the past several months, there have been many rumors as to the
future of Cuba because of President Castro's health," Sparks said in an
interview with The Associated Press. "We felt that it was important for
us to make this trip because we want to ensure that no matter what
happens with Cuba, that Alabama will be able to continue our trade
The potential is tremendous. Cuba particularly needs poultry and timber
products. Alabama has lots of both, and the capacity to produce more.
Last year, Cuba bought $140 million in Alabama products, about one-third
of its total purchases from the United States, according to Sparks. That
could grow significantly in the years ahead.
Another Alabama advantage in trade with Cuba is the port of Mobile,
which is just two days' sail from Cuba. It offers an easily accessible,
cost-effective way to move products to Cuba.
Sparks' concern about the future of Cuba in the post-Fidel Castro era is
valid. The longtime Cuban president is aging and ailing. It is hard to
imagine his tenure lasting much longer. By building relationships with
other Cuban leaders, Sparks is positioning Alabama to continue as a
significant trading partner long after Castro is gone.