Illinois group sees opportunity in Cuba

th5XV0QSF6The head of the Illinois Cuba Working Group, established by the Illinois legislature, sees an opening for lifting of the U.S. trade barrier with Cuba, helping to increase U.S. agricultural exports there.

Paul Johnson, executive director of the group and president of Chicago Foods International, says the new Republican majority in the U.S. Senate could help, “Making small businesses like myself competitive in international markets is a very Republican idea. So, I think that there’s opportunity there with this new Congress.”

And, Johnson says President Obama in his last two years of office could move in that direction, too.

His group’s meeting with Cuban officials at the Havana International Fair last week – Johnson tells Brownfield Ag News – was a way to grow the trade relationship between the two countries, which he says would greatly benefit U.S. ag products, especially soybeans. Illinois is the top soybean producing state…

“We’re optimistic that we can continue to increase sales. We’ve lost sales in the last three years to Argentina and Brazil with soy. So, we’re hoping to reverse that trend.”

Johnson says Cuba wants the embargo to end, too, “I think once we start improving the trade relation that our products, and soy particularly, are going to be more competitively priced, especially if we can offer trade terms. Especially if the Cuban economy improves. As we build the middle class of Cuba they’re going to be consuming more.”

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