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US: Trump’s Cuba moves may harm ag exports

A rollback of Obama administration efforts to open Cuba to U.S. tourism and trade may chill a rebound in agricultural sales to the island nation, setting back a farm-lobby push that’s weathered two decades.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson signaled Tuesday that changes would come as soon as Friday, when President Donald Trump visits Miami. The moves may include new limits on travel and investment policies. While there’s no indications of a clampdown on agricultural sales allowed on a cash-only basis since 2000, cooled relations may drive buyers elsewhere, said Bob Young, chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation in Washington.

The agriculture sector has long advocated an end to the trade embargo with Cuba in place since Fidel Castro consolidated power in the early 1960s. Companies including agricultural equipment maker Deere & Co. and soybean processor Bunge Ltd., along with the federation, the biggest U.S. farmer group, have supported full farm trade.

U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba rose to $221 million in 2016 after three consecutive annual declines, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data compiled by Bloomberg. Sales so far this year are outpacing last year’s by 19 percent.

Boosting trade with Cuba has symbolic significance for farmers beyond any financial benefit. The country lies only 90 miles (145 km) from Florida, and had traded sugar and grain with its larger neighbor for decades before the embargo.

Read more at Bloomberg

Publication date: 6/19/2017

 


 

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