Cuba could become largest U.S. rice market overnight?
Oct. 21, 2011 4:40pm
– Prior to the 1962 embargo, Cuba was the top export destination for
– Cubans consumes nearly 1 million metric tons of rice annually, which
is among the highest consumption rates in the Americas. Sixty percent
of the rice consumed in Cuba is imported from other countries.
USA Rice Federation President and CEO Betsy Ward addressed an audience
of Cuban officials and business interests during a panel discussion
hosted by the Cuban Interests Section today. The event was broadcast
via video conference to Cuban government officials in Havana.
Ward underscored how opening agricultural trade between the U.S. and
Cuba would benefit both countries. “Under normal commercial relations we
believe that Cuba could become, overnight, the largest market for U.S.
grown rice in the world,” Ward said. “The lifting of sanctions will
generate jobs in rural America and it would enable Cuba to buy high
quality rice from a nearby supplier, reducing shipping time, storage and
Prior to the 1962 embargo, Cuba was the top export destination for
U.S.-grown rice. In 2000, Congress passed legislation that permitted
U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba and rice sales to the island nation
totaled 635,000 MT between 2002 and 2006. However, this legislation
codified restrictions on other commercial activities and maintained
existing U.S. restrictions on imports from Cuba. A rule tightening in
2005 crippled U.S. exports to Cuba and there have been no U.S. rice
sales since 2008. Cubans consumes nearly 1 million metric tons of rice
annually, which is among the highest consumption rates in the Americas.
Sixty percent of the rice consumed in Cuba is imported from other
Ward highlighted the commitment of USA Rice to opening the market in
Cuba, including being the first U.S. entity to exhibit at a Havana Trade
Fair in 2001. She reiterated the rice industry’s long-standing position
to normalize trade and travel between the two countries. Ward predicted
a very limited modification of U.S.-Cuba trade policy over the next year
given the reluctance of some members of Congress and the administration
to take bold action in an election year.