Covert Participates in Trade Mission to Cuba

By - Monday, October 3, 2016

USSEC secretary and Illinois Soybean Association director Sharon Covert was part of a delegation representing American soybean and poultry groups that visited Cuba on a trade mission last week.

The U.S. team met with poultry, egg and soybean representatives to learn more about Cuba’s food distribution system and to discuss biosecurity, food safety and nutrition issues. The mission’s focus was to assess the potential for greater U.S. agricultural trade as relations between the U.S. and Cuba continue to develop.

The delegation represents the first mission to Cuba funded by the soybean checkoff since America started normalizing trade relations with the country. The Illinois Soybean Association checkoff program and the Iowa Soybean Association, funded by the soybean checkoff, backed the trip.

USSEC chairman Jim Miller says while Cuba isn’t a large market, it could be an important one in the future.

Mr. Miller said the possible opening of the Cuban market comes at a good time as producers are facing low commodity prices.

“When we have depressed market prices like this, any time that we can open up a new market, it’s a great opportunity for us,” he stated.

He explained that establishing and opening new markets takes time, patience, and persistence, as evidenced by U.S. efforts to open the Chinese market.

“We worked in China for 12 years before we sold the first soybean to China,” Mr. Miller says. “In 1995, China bought 145,000 metric tons from the U.S. and last year, China bought 30 million metric tons from the U.S.” Although the size of the Cuban market won’t be nearly that size, Mr. Miller feels that the country holds great promise for trade, now that the embargo is crumbling.

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