Wheat industry groups support Cuba trade thaw

by Laura Lloyd
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KANSAS CITY — The Kansas Wheat Commission and other industry organizations have gone on record in support of President Barack Obama’s initiative to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba. The change was seen resulting in more U.S. wheat sales to Cuba after a difficult trade relationship over the last several decades.

“U.S. wheat farmers are excited about the prospect of exporting more wheat to Cuba,” said Paul Penner, a wheat farmer in Marion county, Ka., and president of the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

Alan Tracy, president of U.S. Wheat Associates, added that the U.S. wheat industry applauds efforts to restore normal trade relations with Cuba, noting that previous government policy “accomplished little.”

Cuba is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean and buys most of its wheat from the European Union and Canada. Many other Caribbean nations buy the majority of their wheat from the United States. After a 40-year hiatus, Cuba was able to purchase U.S. hard red winter   wheat from 2002 until 2010, and it bought up to 70% of its wheat imports from the United States before an embargo was reinstituted.

“Since we do have an 80% market share in the Caribbean, I think we could have that kind of relationship with Cuba under normalized trade,” said Justin Gilman, chief executive offer of the Kansas Wheat Commission.

Estimates were that Cuba might import 500,000 tonnes or more of U.S. wheat each year, if allowed. Normal trade relations would also permit Cuba to benefit from its proximity to the United States, reducing freight costs and limiting the amount of time required to ship imports to their destination, the Kansas Wheat Commission said.
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