Cuba, here I come ...

North Dakota State Roundup

Published September 1, 2002  | September 2002 issue

Gov. John Hoeven, only the second governor to visit Cuba in 40 years, led a delegation of 10 largely agricultural businesspeople to encourage trade between Cuba and the state. Hoeven and other agricultural state public officials are pressing hard for Congress to expand the two-year-old law that allows direct sales of food to Cuba.

Since December, when the first sales occurred, Cuba has purchased or plans to purchase more than 650,00 tons of U.S. agricultural products worth about $106 million. N.D. companies exported more than 2,000 metric tons of dried green peas, worth more than $500,000 to Cuba in June—the first direct food shipment from the state since the trade embargo began in the Kennedy years.

Cuba can be a profitable market for North Dakota ag products: Prior to the embargo, when Cuba purchased edible beans in the United States, North Dakota had not yet grown commercial beans. Now, the North Dakota-Minnesota region grows half of all the nation's beans. Cuba is also interested in purchasing semolina, made from durum wheat, and 85 percent of the U.S. durum wheat crop is produced in North Dakota.

In September the state will return to Cuba for a U.S. food and agribusiness exhibition—and they plan to bring live bison to promote that meat product.

Kathy Cobb