U.S. durum farmers hopeful in Cuba trade
U.S. durum farmers, especially those in the Upper Midwest, favor increased exports of their product to Cuba.
Cuba recently imported 220,000 bushels of U.S. durum, a main ingredient for pasta, from the United States. U.S. durum farmers believe the market to Cuba could reach as high as 700,000 bushels a year.
Agricultural trade between the United States and Cuba reopened in November 2001 following the devastation of Hurricane Michelle on the island. Since the embargo ended, Cuba has bought large lots of U.S. hard red winter wheat.
Cuba bought about 200,000 bushels of hard spring wheat in the 2002-2003 marketing year and has booked purchases for about 800,000 bushels in the 2003-2004 marketing year plus about 370,000 bushels of new crop to be shipped in the 2004-2005 season, according to U.S. Wheat Associates.
U.S. Wheat Associates regional vice president Mitch Skalicky said U.S. durum producers have an advantage over Mexico, a competitor in supplying Cuba with durum. “Shipping constraints and higher costs of shipping durum out of northwest Mexico, through the Panama Canal and on to Cuba appear to favor U.S. durum exports, given its relative proximity from the center Gulf to Cuba,” he said in a statement.
In 2003, Cuba completed construction of a new durum mill in Havana. Prior to this development, Cuba only milled small volumes of durum with the balance of the country’s pasta plants importing semolina. Cuba also imports finished pasta products from Europe and other countries in the region.
Before the trade embargo of the early 1960s, Cuba imported about 35 million bushels of U.S. wheat, primarily spring and durum, U.S. Wheat Associates said.