Nine farmer leaders and staff members from the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Grains Council and the North Dakota Barley Council traveled to Cuba last week to see first-hand opportunities for expanding U.S. coarse grain exports if trade is fully normalized with the island nation.
The mission was part of an ongoing effort by the grains industry to assess and build plans to address marketing, financial and educational barriers to increase sales to Cuba. As the overseas market development organization for corn, barley, sorghum and grain co-products, the Council is considering how best to engage the Cuban market with partnerships and programs.
“The Cubans are excited to engage with the United States and want to learn more from the U.S. agriculture industry about poultry and dairy production in particular,” said Rob Elliott, NCGA first vice president. “Hopefully we can continue this dialogue and exchange of ideas that will be beneficial for both countries.”
Cuba has purchased corn from the United States since the early 2000s, with market share varying widely from as high as 100 percent to just 15 percent last marketing year. The country has purchased distiller’s dried grains with solubles, a byproduct of the ethanol manufacturing process, from the United States since 2005. If Cuba purchased all of its imported corn from the United States, it would be the 12th largest overseas market for the product.
The grain industry groups visited with government officials in the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investments. Stops also included a Cuban port and visits to rice and corn operations.
“This mission reaffirmed that it’s time for a new U.S. policy toward Cuba, and now is the time to act,” Elliott said.
Listen to an interview with Elliott on the trade mission here: Interview with Rob Elliott, NCGA first VP