The island nation of Cuba’s purchased nearly 100-million-dollars worth of corn from Iowa, according to the Iowa Corn Promotion Board. Spokesman Don Mason says we’ve been selling corn to Cuba for some time. Mason says the U.S. first began to trade farm products with Cuba when “a window was opened” in the existing embargo against that communist nation, by the Trade Sanctions Act of 2000, which allowed that opportunity.
He says Fidel Castro’s government didn’t show much interest in trading with us until 2001, in the aftermath of Hurricane Michelle. Mason says then, they started to make purchases from the United States and one of their first was a buy from West Des Moines based F.C. Stone, one of this country’s largest commercial grain brokers. They represent co-op elevators across the Midwest, and sold a shipment of corn to Cuba — and Mason says they’ve kept on doing it ever since.
Mason says “Iowa farmers cannot afford to thumb their nose at any size market,” and Iowa has an advantage in having lower shipping costs to Cuba than many of our competitors. He says Cuba’s somewhere between 20th and 35th in volume as a buyer of our farm exports.
Cuba was hit by Hurricane Dennis back in July, and Hurricane Wilma barely a month ago, and some producers worry that Cuba won’t be able to come up with the money to pay for its purchases of grain. Mason says not all countries have embargoed trade or travel with Cuba, and its thriving tourism business provides enough capital for trading. Cuba depends heavily on a tourist industry, and that generates a good deal of cash that enables them to make purchases from U.S. companies.
Mason says he anticipates the U.S. someday reopening all its trade with Cuba. The understanding between the two countries is “not the best at the governmental level,” Mason notes, but he says on a people-to-people level he’s always been very well received there and thinks we’re setting the groundwork for a good trade relationship there in years to come.
The USDA recently announced another record year for corn and soybean farming, and once again Iowa had the largest grain harvest in the nation this year.