Grain News

Illinois Soybean Assn. Helps Support Cuba Trade Relations Conference

Date Posted: February 27, 2014

Bloomington, IL—Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) Feb. 24 joined with other Illinois groups in leading discussions about establishing and improving trade relations with Cuba.

The Illinois Cuba Working Group, which ISG is a member, held a conference in Springfield, Ill., to talk about the outlook for working with Cuba now and in the future.

As part of the Illinois Cuba Working Group, ISG believes both the U.S. and Cuba can benefit with an increased exchange of ideas, knowledge, capital and credit.

"We are at a moment in time when things may be changing in Illinois and in the United States for Cuba," said keynote speaker Antonio Zamora.

The Cuban native explained how Illinois and Florida can work together, how U.S. businesses are currently involved in Cuba and travel restrictions that have been eased during the Obama administration.

"Illinois is enormously important for Cuban policy," Zamora said.

While the U.S. is the primary supplier of whole soybeans to Cuba, purchasing some five million bushels per year, U.S. soybean farmers are losing soybean meal and oil market share in Cuba to competitors who are geographically more distant.

In 2006, Global Trade Information Services estimates the U.S. had more than 75 percent market share for Cuba's soybean meal and oil imports. In recent years, Brazil has had more than 75 percent market share.

"Cuba is an important market for Illinois soybeans, given the soybean, meal and oil export potential. ISG is exploring opportunities to build trade with Cuba, including favoring immediate removal of agricultural trade and travel restrictions and urging Cuban eligibility for various U.S. credit programs," says Bill Raben, soybean farmer from Ridgway, Ill., and ISA chairman.

"Although ag products are exempt from the embargo, we are losing significant market share on our soy exports because of restrictions the U.S. imposes on financial transactions with Cuba."

University of Florida Ag Economist William Messina talked about agricultural trade in Cuba, including advantages and disadvantages for U.S. goods.

He is the founding co-director of the Food and Resource Economics Department's comprehensive research initiative to provide objective and current data, information and analysis on the agricultural sectors in Cuba.

Terry McCoy, professor emeritus and director of the Latin American Business Environment Program at the University of Florida, cited several reasons why the current U.S. policy toward Cuba does not serve national interests of the United States.

"The U.S. has not isolated Cuba, but has isolated itself," he said.

For more information, call 309-808-3610.

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