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U.S. farmers, in Havana, say sanctions stymieing food sales to Cuba By Reuters

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© Reuters. Flags of U.S. and Cuba dangle exterior a resort in Havana, Cuba, April 6, 2022. REUTERS/Stringer

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By Dave Sherwood

HAVANA (Reuters) – U.S. farmers, on a commerce tour in Cuba, mentioned on Wednesday they want to promote extra wheat and different farm merchandise to the impoverished Caribbean island as a world food disaster looms, however that Chilly Conflict-era restrictions proceed to hamper new offers.

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Cuba is already affected by food shortages and making ready for worse as costs soar globally with the warfare in Ukraine.

A delegation of U.S. farm sector representatives in Havana mentioned that embargo restrictions, regardless of some exceptions for agricultural merchandise, nonetheless complicate efforts to ship food that may in any other case show a lifeline for Cubans.

The USA created a loophole to its commerce embargo with Cuba in 2000 to permit for food sales, however it nonetheless denies Cuba credit score, forcing the communist-run authorities to pay money up entrance for merchandise it purchases from U.S. growers.

“We’re hamstrung due to this embargo,” mentioned Paul Johnson, co-chair of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba, a greater than 100-member group that features nationwide and state farm organizations, companies and producers.

“We will’t compete on even footing with different suppliers around the globe, as a result of they will provide credit score… meaning so much.”

The U.S. State Division didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.

The delegation of farmers arrived in Cuba’s capital Havana amid sweltering warmth and a grinding financial disaster that has led to hours-long traces for fundamental merchandise reminiscent of rooster, eggs, bread and yogurt, in addition to gasoline and medication shortages.

Worldwide food costs hit file highs in February and will rise by one other 20% on account of the warfare in Ukraine, the United Nations food company mentioned in March.

Poor nations like Cuba, already struggling to feed their populations, are most in danger, the company has mentioned.

Farmers consulted by Reuters at a gathering in Havana mentioned the proximity of the US to Cuba may assist slash transport costs for merchandise that the island nation now imports from Europe and factors east, serving to alleviate some value considerations.

Wheat costs in specific have spiked following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, one of many world’s high grains producers, prompting considerations over the availability of bread in Cuba.

U.S. farmers at the moment export nearly no wheat to Cuba, mentioned Doug Keesling, a fifth-generation farmer from Kansas who was among the many delegates in Havana.

“If we will open Cuba up…(that) would put quite a lot of stuff on grocery cabinets,” Keesling mentioned.

Cuban farmers in attendance mentioned they too hoped for the chance to export to the US, in half to assist elevate money to purchase the farm merchandise, like wheat, that they can’t produce in sultry Cuba.

“We don’t need them to give us something. We simply need to give you the chance to purchase and promote,” mentioned cooperative farmer Abelardo Alvarez.

Prior to Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Cuba was the ninth largest export marketplace for U.S. farm merchandise. At the moment, it has fallen under fiftieth on the checklist, in accordance to U.S. Congressional Analysis Service knowledge.

Rooster merchandise accounted for practically 95% of $295 million price of U.S. agricultural exports to Cuba in 2021. The USA imports no agricultural merchandise from Cuba.

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