WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) are pleased to be founding members of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba (USACC). The organizations are encouraged by President Obama’s efforts to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba. However, it is unclear if these actions alone will be enough to restore the Cuban wheat market for U.S. farmers. That is why they share USACC’s mission to re-establish Cuba as a market for U.S. food and agricultural exports.
Cuba, which does not grow wheat commercially, is the largest wheat market in the Caribbean, purchasing almost all of its wheat from the European Union and Canada. In the recent past, Cuba has imported more than 16.3 million bushels (445,000 metric tons) of wheat in a single year from the United States, sales that today would represent a value of nearly $123 million. However, under current rules set by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, the United States can only export agricultural products to Cuba through the use of third-party, foreign banks, which makes facilitating trade burdensome and often more expensive for Cuba. Partly as a result, Cuba has not purchased U.S. wheat since 2011.
“U.S. wheat farmers are excited about the prospect of exporting more wheat to Cuba,” says NAWG President Paul Penner, a wheat farmer from Hillsboro, KS. “NAWG has long supported strengthened trade relations with Cuba and see this as a historic step in that direction.”
“The U.S. wheat industry applauds these efforts to normalize trade relations, which take concrete steps away from a policy approach towards Cuba that has accomplished little,” said USW President Alan Tracy. “If U.S. trade with Cuba can increasingly respond to economics rather than politics, we believe our wheat market share there will eventually grow from its current level of zero to around 80 to 90 percent, as it is in other Caribbean nations. We have a natural competitive advantage over other suppliers.”
USW is the industry’s market development organization working in more than 100 countries. Its mission is to “develop, maintain, and expand international markets to enhance the profitability of U.S. wheat farmers.” The activities of USW are made possible by producer checkoff dollars managed by 19 state wheat commissions and through cost-share funding provided by USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service. For more information, visit www.uswheat.org or contact your state wheat commission.
The National Association of Wheat Growers was founded more than 60 years ago by producers who wanted to work together for the common good of the industry. Today, NAWG works with its 22 affiliated state associations and many coalition partners on issues as diverse as federal farm policy, environmental regulation, the future commercialization of biotechnology in wheat and uniting the wheat industry around common goals.
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