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US: Colorado explores agriculture import/export opportunities with Cuba

Commissioner of Agriculture, Don Brown, and a Colorado contingent of agricultural companies, manufacturers, and a financial services company have recently returned from Cuba to discuss export/import opportunities with the market. 

The joint mission, hosted by the Colorado Department of Agriculture and World Trade Centre Denver, included representatives from Ardent Mills, the Colorado Farm Bureau, Northern Bean and Feed, the Colorado Wheat Board, Terumo BCT, Geotech Environmental Equipment and Western Union.

"Cuba represents an exciting opportunity to develop new partnerships and new markets for our agricultural economy," Brown said. "The global marketplace continues to be more and more competitive and Colorado's farmers have the high-quality, abundant products to help feed a growing population."

Cuba currently imports 80 percent of its food and has less than 5 percent of its land under cultivation. The U.S. government has stated that it will not lift the embargo at this time — however agricultural products can still be traded to Cuba with the proviso that Cuba pays upfront for goods and services.

The objective of the mission from the agricultural component was to have represented products such as grains, and dry beans and other commodities which we felt the Cubans were most in need of to feed their people. Cuba has already asked for potato seed from Colorado in addition to corn, carrots and onions so that they can start to be more self-sufficient.

"In every meeting throughout the mission, the Cubans expressed the difficulties of not having access to credit to purchase U.S. goods," said Karen Gerwitz, president of the World Trade Centre Denver. "The embargo and access to capital is definitely hindering business between our nations, but there is still opportunity to do business on the island." On the trip, Western Union shared that Cuba is their 4th largest location for remittances in the world.

Events included meetings with the Ministry of Trade and Foreign Investment, the Ministry of Foreign Relations, the Ministry of Agriculture, farm tours and a bilateral business forum.

"Currently, Colorado agriculture is a $41 billion industry and exports $2 billion annually to over 100 countries around the world," said John Addison, CDA's international marketing specialist. "With a broad variety of products and being centrally located within the U.S., this offers a 'one-stop-shopping' for our global partners."

CDA's Markets Division has a variety of programs and resources to help promote the state's agricultural products and focuses on increasing marketing and processing opportunities for Colorado's farmers. 

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