An Iowa delegation just back from a trade trip to Cuba has secured contracts to sell millions of dollars worth of grain, ice cream other products from the state. Tom Rial of the Greater Des Moines Partnership says reports that Cuba has no money for trade did keep some businesses away from the trip. He says the reports were wrong. He says trade in March 2003 compared to 2002 saw sales up 121 percent and he says sales for the first three months of this year compared to last year were up 40 percent. Rial says the agreements secured with Cuba for Iowa goods are worth millions. He says to come back with about four to four-and-a-half million dollars in sales is good considering the restrictions on trade. While the trade trip has been criticized due to the crack downs on dissedents in Cuba, Rial says keeping the trade talks open is important. He says a delegation from Iowa will soon visit Washington, D.C. to ask for a further lifting of restrictions and travel to Cuba. He says the estimated two-million tourists that would travel to Cuba would make the centrally planned system will collapse in on itself. He says government-run restaurants cannot operate efficiently enough to please customers. Rial says a bigger American presence in Cuba would lead to better conditions for Cubans. He says if Americans are free to travel to Cuba, the government there would take pause on the issue of the dissidents and other issues — for fear Americans would see something hostile. Rial says sending Iowa grown goods to the country can change the attitude of Cubans toward our country. He says the Cubans look at the U-S as treating them in a hostile manner, and are afraid we’re going to invade them. Don Mason of the Iowa Corn Growers Association was also on the trip. Mason says Cuba has tremendous potential for Iowa trade. He says there’s a potential in the quantity of food needed, and the quality of food needed. One of the products Mason has hopes for in Cuba is the milled corn left over from the ethanol plant in Lakota. He says they have a good market for ethanol, but they’re concerned the dried distillers grain will become a problem to get rid of. He says the Cubans during this trade trip agreed to try some of the dried milled grain as a cattle food. The sales also included over one-million dollars worth of corn, Wells Blue Bunny ice cream. The deal with Cuba also involved nearly three million dollars worth of wheat, not grown in Iowa, but sold through a West Des Moines company. Iowa officials are also negoitiating to sell pork and beef to Cuba for the first time.
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