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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 08:21 GMT
Cuba 'to buy more US food'
Freighter MV Ikan Mazatlan arriving in Havana
Last year's shipment was the first trade for 40 years
Cuba is planning on ordering a second shipment of food from the United States following a historic purchase last year, US officials say.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro told a visiting American delegation he wanted to buy food and agricultural products, so long as the US was flexible on granting licences to firms which wanted to do business.

We were told by the president [Castro] that we could expect to see additional purchases of food

Jim Summer, USA Poultry and Egg Export Council
Last December, Cuba bought $35m of wheat, soya beans, rice and corn in the wake of Hurricane Michelle, which devastated the island's crops.

It was the first time Cuba directly imported US products, despite an American trade embargo which had been in place for 40 years.

Although Washington eased trade restrictions slightly in 2000, Mr Castro refused to buy American products because of continuing limitations on US businesses.

After the hurricane, President Bush agreed to speed up the licensing process for American firms wishing to sell to Cuba, so that food could reach Cuba quickly.

Change of mind

Cuba had said the first purchase would not be repeated unless America further eased the embargo.

But, after a six-hour meeting with President Castro, the US delegation said Cuba had dropped its demands.

Fidel Castro
Castro wants US trade laws lifted

"We were advised by President Castro that there is still a need for humanitarian product. He indicated he would like to re-establish the reserves to help them recover from Hurricane Michelle and also to help in case of future emergency situations," said Jim Summer, president of the US Poultry and Egg Export Council.

Mr Summer said Mr Castro wanted to buy about the same amount as the first order.

Mr Castro said Cuba would be willing to buy three times that amount if existing restrictions on the financing of sales were lifted, Mr Summer said.

Under a new deal in 2000, US firms were permitted to sell directly to the island, but public or private funding for the sales was prohibited.

Mr Castro said if remaining limitations on licences to sell food to Cuba were lifted, US trade could eventually account for more than half the island's food supply, said Mr Summer.

However, US Congress has said the embargo will remain in place until Cuba improves human rights and makes democratic reforms.

See also:

16 Dec 01 | Americas
US food arrives in Cuba
30 Nov 01 | Americas
US sells food to Cuba
22 Nov 01 | Americas
US company signs food deal with Cuba
17 Nov 01 | Americas
Castro welcomes one-off US trade
14 Jul 01 | Americas
US tightens sanctions on Cuba
12 Jul 01 | Business
US threat to Cuban investors
06 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Cuba
19 May 01 | Americas
Bush stands firm on Cuban sanctions
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