Exploring trade opportunities in Cuba

A state director of agriculture says despite trade barriers there are export growth opportunities in Cuba. 

Don Lamb is with the Indiana State Department of Agriculture. 

“There are 11 million people, 90 miles off our coast that need a lot of different food products,” he says. “You can talk pretty far and wide about the needs that the people of Cuba have.”

In 2023, U.S. trade to Cuba was valued at $337 million, with poultry, pork, and dairy products being some of the top commodities sold. 

He tells Brownfield Indiana agriculture is well suited to meet the country’s needs. 

“Right now the the ration card for a Cuban is that they would get 5 eggs per person per month and so they need more in the way of of eggs,” he says. “There’s lots of opportunity there.”

Lamb says one of the biggest barriers hindering growth in the Cuban market is the country’s lack of capital. 

“Cuban people just don’t have a lot of hard currency and they can’t get credit from the United States,” he says.  “So a lot of the credit has to come through another party. Maybe it’s the Canadian bank, or maybe it’s a Spanish bank.”

The U.S. first imposed a trade embargo on the sale of arms to Cuba in 1958, the embargo expanded in 1960 on exports, except for food and medicine to the country. 

Lamb says the uncertainty around payment for products is the biggest stumbling block in expanding trade.  

The trade mission was hosted by the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture and funding was provided by the USDA’s Foreign Ag Service’s Emerging Markets Program.  

Thom Peterson, Minnesota commissioner of ag was also a part of the trade delegation. 

AUDIO: Don Lamb, Indiana State Department of Agriculture

Photo courtesy of the Indiana State Department of Agriculture.

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