Grain News

Illinois Soybean Assn. Seeks Opportunities to Build Cuba Trade

Date Posted: March 5, 2013

Bloomington, IL—Cuba is an important market for Illinois soy, not only because of soybean, meal and oil export potential, but also because of significant U.S. chicken leg quarter export potential.

The Illinois Soybean Growers (ISG) continues to explore 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.

"Although agricultural products are exempt from the embargo, we are losing significant market share on our soy exports to Cuba because of restrictions the U.S. imposes on financial transactions with Cuba," says Bill Wykes, soybean farmer from Yorkville, Ill., and ISA chairman.

"When it comes to feeding people, we need to put our political differences aside."

ISG was instrumental during the recent annual American Soybean Association (ASA) policy resolutions session in drafting a resolution regarding Cuba and gaining approval from other state affiliates.

ASA favors immediate removal of agricultural trade, financial and travel restrictions for Cuba, and urges Cuban eligibility for federally authorized checkoff activities, Foreign Market Development (FMD), Market Access Programs (MAP) and other credit programs, including the U.S. Export Credit Guarantee Programs (GSM programs).

Wykes was in Cuba recently on an ISG-funded mission with Mark Sprague, soybean farmer from New Canton, Ill., and ISA director; and Craig Ratajczyk, ISA CEO.

The trip was a follow-up to the first-ever fact-finding mission to Cuba led by ISG nearly a year ago.

The goals of both missions were to build relationships with those who buy and use soybeans, gain intimate knowledge of supply and demand dynamics for soy in Cuba, learn how Illinois can be the preferred supplier, and to set the stage for future visits and mutually beneficial supplier agreements with Cuban partners.

The group met with Alimport, the Cuban agency responsible for U.S. food/ag product imports; Minagri, the Ministry of Agriculture; Minrex, the Ministry of External Relations; and Mincex, the Ministry of International Commerce.

ISG also is partnering with the USA Poultry & Egg Export Council (USAPEEC), U.S. Soybean Export Council (USSEC) and other groups to better understand the market and increase exports.

"More tourism and prosperity for Cuba will likely lead to greater demand for soybeans and products," says Wykes.

"Illinois is well positioned to be Cuba's best supplier, given our logistical advantages and a commitment to quality.

"We don't want to lose the opportunity."

Unfortunately, U.S. soybean farmers have been losing market share to more distant competitors.

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.

Now Brazil has more than 75 percent market share.

Meanwhile, Cuba was the fifth largest single country U.S. broiler export market.

For more information, call 309-808-3601.

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