Importation of licensed food into Cuba from the USA is primarily spearheaded by Pedro Alvarez Borrego, President of ALIMPORT. Mr. Alvarez's comments in September, 2002 regarding USA Cuba trade were:
"After more than four decades of no trading relations, the discussions that have led to Cuban purchases of US farm products have been an enlightening experience. Beyond the pure business objectives involved, these discussions have also helped us get to know each other better and bring our peoples together.
At present, the Cuban market poses a challenge for the US farming and other sectors. We are pleased to note the high professionalism displayed by the American companies we have dealt with, and the significant support extended by the major US associations, including, among many others, the wheat, rice, and chicken associations.
The aforementioned factors, combined with our mutual interest and confidence in moving as fast as possible towards normal trading relations between both sides, have been responsible for the over 712,000 tons of 211 items, worth a total of US $140 million - including freight costs and shiploads in progress - that Cuba will have transacted with the US by the end of September. Cuba has honored its payment obligations arising from these deliveries on time. These shipments account for only 16% of Cuba's total imports of such items. We expect that, by the end of this trade fair, Cuba's food purchases from the US will represent, at least, 22% of the total Cuban food imports in 2002.
By 2005, Cuba plans to import around US $1.4 billion worth of these same food items. If the current restrictions on trade, financing and travel cease to exist by then, it is not wild to estimate conservatively that Cuba's food imports from the US could account for at least 60% of the aforementioned numbers, in light of the geographical proximity of our two countries - a factor that helps reduce freight costs substantially - and in light of the growth in both our population and the number of visitors to Cuba. In addition, it is our desire to supply to our population more and better quality food.
All these goods will be carried to US ports and shipped to Cuba from the most convenient locations for both countries.
While our imports from the US will increase, it is our firm intent that Cuba's traditional food suppliers do not see a decline in their Cuban market share and the performance of our financial obligations with them.
A growing interest by various US sectors and the support being extended by the American people, including senators, representatives and other personalities, will some day bring about normalized trade and travel between our two countries.
If practiced on an equal footing, trade stands to benefit not only corporations, but also the manufacturing and service sectors. Trade becomes, therefore, an important source of employment and wealth. And that is good for everyone, for both the American people and the Cuban people.
We appreciate this trade. We are not imposing restrictions on the participation of American business; in fact, we encourage American firms to be present in joint business deals with their Cuban counterparts.
We welcome those who have come with those purposes in mind. We are
for free trade and normalized travel between Cuba and the US."
Pedro Alvarez, ALIMPORT, 2002
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