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Cuba could become viable trading partner with Texas producers

<p>Tractor drivers keep these old tractors running on Cuban co-op farms.</p>

A Texas Trade Mission traveled to Cuba earlier this year to gauge the potential for agricultural trade if travel, financial and trade restrictions are eliminated.

Northeast Texas wheat grower and president of the Texas Wheat Producers Association Ben Scholz took part in that trade mission. He came back convinced that Cuba offers Texas producers a viable new trading partner.

“Cuba is a 30-million-bushel annual wheat market,” Scholz said. “That’s one-third of the Texas wheat crop.” The U.S. maintains an 80-percent market share in other Caribbean markets, so trade with Cuba could offer similar opportunities. “Export potential could be $450 million annually.”

One of several goals for the Texas Trade Mission was to build relationships with Cuban importers.



Lingering U.S. restrictions make trade cumbersome with Cuba. “Current financial restrictions increase costs by 15 percent to 20 percent,” Scholz explained. “Those restrictions require payment from third party banks and cash in advance of shipment.”

He added that increasing trade also offers an opportunity to “make a positive impact on human rights” through the interactions members of the trade mission have with Cuban officials.

“This is still a country with arbitrary arrest, harsh prison conditions, restrictions on free speech and Internet access, and limited academic freedoms.” He said some changes in communications are occurring.


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