USA Rice Continues Work to Open Trade with Cuba

May 31, 2016
USA Rice's Ben Mosely (center)
confers with Cuban officials
Ben-Mosely-meeting-with-Cuban-officials
HAVANA, CUBA – USA Rice Vice President of Government Affairs Ben Mosely spent last week here as part of a delegation of members from the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC).  Rice was by far the most popular topic of discussion during the many meetings held with various departments of Cuban government, farmer cooperatives, importing agencies, and the ports system.

The group of more than 30 U.S. agriculture representatives on the trip met with the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment (MINCEX) to kick off their arrival to the island last Monday.  This introductory and welcoming meeting covered a broad discussion on the current laws and regulations restricting free trade between the two countries as well as the commitment on both sides to continue efforts to achieve normalized relations and bilateral trade.

On Tuesday, the group traveled to the Port of Mariel with officials from the Special Economic Zone to learn about the rapidly developing port and the incentives being offered to foreign investors to operate in the “free trading zone.”  Later that day the delegation visited with officials from the U.S. Embassy where Mosely provided an update on USA Rice’s efforts to persuade Congress to remove financing and commercial barriers and the trading restrictions that will allow U.S. grown rice to competitively serve the Cuban market.  

At a meeting with the Ministry of Agriculture Mosely asked an official for assurances that the Cubans would purchase U.S. rice when financing restrictions are removed and was told, “Simple math is the assurance.  Why would we pay more money for an inferior product that takes almost a month to receive when we could instead purchase a superior product for less money and receive it in a matter of days?”

Mosely said, “I spend a lot of my time in Washington advocating for improved relations between the U.S. and Cuba and often hear feedback from folks with a preconceived idea of what life is actually like in Cuba.  Getting the opportunity to see it firsthand was all it took to completely erase any notions in Congress that the Cuban people don’t want this embargo to be lifted.”  

Mosely concluded, “We’ve been slowly moving the needle with Congress but we have a lot of work left to do.  The Cubans are clearly ready to engage with us so the pressure is on the United States to see this through.  USA Rice is ready to help make this market a reality but it will need to be a collective effort by all commodities, other businesses and industries, and humanitarian groups to get us to that point.”