Informacion economica sobre Cuba

Houston's port has a Cuba connection
By JENALIA MORENO
Jan. 15, 2010, 10:17PM

HOUSTON'S EXPORTS TO CUBA

Cuba is a small portion of the Port of Houston Authority's business but
exports are expected to increase to the island nation now that a
shipping line sails from Houston to Cuba. Here's how many tons of
agricultural products and medicines were shipped out of Houston.

• 2003 103,749 tons

• 2004 267,951 tons

• 2005 130,123 tons

• 2006 183,800 tons

• 2007 322,370 tons

• 2008 274,381 tons

Source: Port of Houston Authority

For the first time in nearly half a century, a shipping line will
provide weekly transport from Houston's docks to Cuba. Local officials
view this as the beginning of increased exports to a Latin American
nation that still faces a partial trade embargo with the U.S.

"What we're witnessing is the important first step," said Jeff Moseley,
president and CEO of the Greater Houston Partnership.

Shipping company CMA CGM of Marseille, France, recently began hauling
food, medical products and other items allowed by the U.S. government to
two Cuban ports from Houston. Every week, the vessels will stop in
Kingston, Jamaica, before moving on to Havana and Santiago de Cuba from
Houston's Bayport terminal.

"This would definitely be easier for our people to get their product to
Cuba out of the port and into a potential other market," said Ron
Hufford, executive vice president of the Texas Forestry Association,
which hopes to sell railroad ties, utility poles, furniture and other
items. Two years ago, a top Cuban official toured Texas mills to see the
state's wood products, Hufford said.

CMA CGM received a U.S. government license through October 2011 to move
cargo to Cuba from the U.S. Texas officials have been urging a carrier
to seek such approval for years.

For Texas, this means another market for some goods, and for Cuba, the
new shipping route means faster delivery of products. Instead of waiting
weeks or months for goods from other continents, Texas goods can arrive
in Cuba much sooner.
'Just-in-time delivery'

"Shipping from Texas, they can pretty much do just-in-time delivery of
produce," said Cynthia Thomas, president of Dallas consulting company
TriDimension Strategies. She's visited Cuba 40 times with clients and
trade missions.

She said Texas companies can market their goods as fresher than their
competitors' products, which may have sat on a boat longer.

Prior to this new route, Texas producers seeking regular service had to
haul their Cuban-bound products to Florida ports. That added costs and
delays. Or companies had to charter an entire vessel for the occasional
shipment to Cuba.

"That would make them less competitive," said Ricky Kunz, the port's
vice president of origination.

"That would make them less competitive," said Ricky Kunz, the port's
vice president of origination.

In 2000, the U.S. began allowing Americans to sell agricultural and
medical products to Cuba. Since then, food makers, exporters and port
officials have traveled there to try to convince Cubans to buy from them.

"When a marketplace opens up, everybody wants to get into the action,"
said Port Chairman Jim Edmonds, who represented the port on a trade
mission in 2005. "Cuba is attractive to us from the standpoint of its
proximity."

Port officials have visited Cuba a few times already and plan to attend
a Texas-Cuba Trade Alliance meeting that will be held at the partnership
in March.

The island, 900 miles from Houston, was once a buyer of Texas rice and
other agricultural products until the Kennedy administration imposed a
trade embargo.

In 2008, $143 million worth of food and agricultural products moved to
Cuba through Texas ports, nearly 50 percent higher than in 2007, said
Parr Rosson, extension economist of the Texas Agrilife Extension
Service. But exports from the U.S. to Cuba slowed because of hurricanes
that pummeled the island in 2008; the decline in prices of nickel, one
of Cuba's exports; and a decline in tourism because of the global
economic slowdown.

In 2008, 274,000 tons of goods were shipped from Houston to Cuba. That's
a "minuscule" amount of the port's business, Kunz said, since 225
million tons typically move through the port annually. But the port
hopes to expand that business.

With the Obama administration already easing some of the restrictions on
trade and travel with Cuba, Moseley said: "We're very optimistic that
the embargo could be lifted during the first term of the administration,
if not sooner. The effect is going to be tremendous."

If the embargo is lifted, he predicted Houston companies would sell
goods for Cuba's energy business and the rebuilding of its roads and homes.
Castro's regime

However, Cuban exiles still oppose easing trade restrictions because of
their opposition to Fidel Castro's communist regime and its human rights
record.

"We've always seen that as the only way to protest," said Houston
business consultant Andres Puello, who left Cuba 40 years ago. "There's
going to be no benefit for the Cuban people. I don't think because they
make these concessions there will be an improvement in Cuba."

jenalia.moreno@chron.com

Houston's port gains a Cuba shipping connection | Business | Chron.com –
Houston Chronicle (15 January 2010)
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/6818574.html


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