Florida wholesaler plans warehouse in Cuba
By Coral Beach November 05, 2015 | 1:31 pm EST COMMENTS
A Florida produce wholesaler is negotiating a lease agreement with the
Cuban government for a warehouse and distribution center after having
been granted a license to open a facility there.
Florida Produce of Hillsborough County Inc. was able to secure the
license because of revisions to trade regulations announced in September
by the U.S. Treasury and Commerce departments, according to Tim Hunt, an
attorney representing the Tampa, Fla., company.
The facility will store fresh fruits and vegetables as well as other
foods and equipment, Hunt said Nov. 4.
Company president Mike Mauricio was in Cuba meeting with officials the
first week of November and unavailable for comment. He issued a news
release through Hunt, who is with the Hill Ward Henderson law firm in Tampa.
“This is the first step toward more open trade with Cuba,” Mauricio said
in the release. “We look forward to assisting U.S. businesses, both with
providing a physical location to conduct trade on Cuban soil, as well as
through private consultation services on how to properly and legally
navigate business channels in Cuba.”
Mauricio and his business partner Manuel Fernandez met with staff from
the U.S. State Department Oct. 26 to discuss details of the plan. Hunt
said additional details must be worked out before Florida Produce can
begin operating the warehouse and distribution center.
“Florida Produce is still waiting to hear from the Cuban government
regarding this proposal,” Hunt said.
“The Cuban government and Florida Produce would need to enter into a
lease agreement of an existing facility in Havana that would allow
Florida Produce to operate in accordance with the new guidelines issued
by the U.S. government in September of 2015.”
Those guidelines allow certain U.S. businesses to establish a physical
presence in Cuba, employ Cuban nationals, open and maintain bank
accounts in Cuba, and employ U.S. citizens to work in Cuba, according to
the news release.
The Tampa produce wholesaler already has established relationships with
some Cuban entities because it has been conducting business in Cuba for
more than 15 years, according to the release.
“In 2001, it (Florida Produce) earned the first license granted in
Florida for food sales (to Cuba), and was the first Florida company to
conduct food sales with Cuba since the U.S. Embargo over 40 years
earlier,” according to the release.
“Florida Produce has supplied Cuba with fresh fruits and vegetables
including apples, pears, grapes, raisins, dried fruits and dehydrated
coconut. In addition, company president, Mike Mauricio, has advised on
and brokered agreements between a number of U.S.-based businesses and
ALIMPORT, the government agency which oversees and purchases goods for
Cuba,” according to the release.
Hunt said the Florida Produce sales to Cuba were considered humanitarian
aid under the U.S. government’s Trade Sanctions Reform and Export
Enhancement Act of 2000.
Source: Florida wholesaler plans warehouse in Cuba | The Packer –