Aquaculture for all
The Fish Site presents: The Vienna Sessions - Conversations about aquaculture. 9 video interviews with aquaculture thought leaders. Watch here.

Mississippi catfish exports to Cuba worth millions and US businesses optimistic about trade

CUBA - Some 275 representatives from 114 companies in 25 states attended the annual CUBA-US Agribusiness Trade Fair, the largest meeting with American business leaders since convalescing President Fidel Castro stepped down last summer.

Pedro Alvarez, the head of Alimport, Cuba's food import company, said that in the coming week the gathering should result in the signing of $140 million to $150 million in contracts for tons of wheat, corn, beef, chicken, pork and other products from the U.S. companies. Officials signed $118 million worth of contracts on Wednesday alone.

'Commerce between our countries helps both Cuba and the United States,' said Pedro Alvarez, Alimport's CEO. 'The same with travel between our countries. You have to be blind not to see that.'

The deals ensured that Cuba buys as much from U.S. producers in 2007 as it did last year, when the Communist government spent $570 million for American food and agricultural products, including shipping and banking costs.

Participants said attendance was down compared to fairs held in the past, when Fidel Castro often mingled with American farm producers. Castro's successor, his brother Raul, did not attend the fair, making Cuba Trade Minister Raul De La Nuez the highest ranking official in attendance.

But the three-day trade fair, concluded Wednesday, also became a public forum for mounting criticism of the U.S. trade embargo enforced in 1962. Monday's opening session was attended by a U.S. congressional delegation seeking to open trade with Cuba that included Rep. Rosa De Lauro, a Connecticut Democrat who chairs the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture.

Jim Sumner, president of the Atlanta-based U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, concluded the meeting Wednesday by vowing to work toward 'normalized and open commercial relations' with Cuba.

'When somebody says at the next meeting, `Maybe we'll have an open relationship one day that will be true,' I hope we're all still around and we can come down with some more Georgia wine and toast.'