Cuba set to negotiate US agricultural imports
HAVANA, May 26 (AFP): Cuba has plans to spend up to 150 million dollars
on food imports when officials sit down Monday with US agribusiness
representatives, the head of the state importing agency said yesterday.
The United States has maintained a trade embargo on Cuba since February
1962, but in 2000 the US Congress authorized food and medicine exports
to Cuba on a cash-and-carry basis.
Pedro Alvarez, the head of the state importing monopoly Alimport, said
that some 250 US business representatives will be at the talks, which
are expected to carry on through Wednesday.
From 2000 to the end of 2006 Cuba racked up agricultural imports from
the United States alone worth more than 2.3 billion dollars, Alvarez said.
US agricultural imports include corn, rice, beans, peas and grains.
Prices however have been rising for these products in the last months
due to an increased demand for biofuels.
Cuban imports from the United States however began to drop off in 2005,
when Washington changed the rules and demanded advance cash payments for
all its exports.
Cuba imports the bulk of its agricultural products from Asia, South
America and Europe. Total agricultural imports amount to some 1.6
billion dollars a year, Alvarez said.
Cuba annually buys up to 40,000 tonnes of potato seeds, mainly from
Canada and Holland. But last week they negotiated purchase of potato
seeds from the US state of North Dakota, Alvarez said.