Since 1962 there’s been an embargo in place that prevented exports to Cuba– except for a brief period during the Clinton administration.
Rice farmers like Brian Wild from Jeff Davis Parish say allowing rice exports to Cuba would make a big difference for growers in this region.
“It would make a tremendous difference to me. Our prices are down about 20 to 25 percent from last year. They’re below our cost of production. I’ve heard figures as high as this market could mean as much as two billion dollars to Louisiana and to the south as a whole.”
Besides, Wild says the embargo hasn’t accomplished anything.
“It’s not an embargo against Cuba, it’s an embargo against the Louisiana rice farmers because that market was taken from us and Castro is still, he’s getting his rice. They’re importing their rice from Vietnam now, so they’re still getting rice.”
Wild and other farmers attended a rice and soybean clinic in Welsh. LSU AgCenter economist Dr. Mike Salassi says it would be a major market for farmers here:
“To rice farmers in Louisiana it will mean a very close, major export market that’s going to increase the demand for their product, which is going to increase the price that they receive and so that’s why there’s such interest.
Salassi says a mechanism is needed to transfer money between the two countries.
“One of the major limitations or restrictions with trade right now is having a banking system or banking arrangement with Cuba that can facilitate international trade and that’s one of the factors that the producers and the rice industry of the United States and Louisiana are working toward to try to get financial arrangements established so that trade can occur between the two countries.”
Wild and others including millers and processors, plan to travel to Washington D.C. to lobby for relaxed restrictions to allow rice exports to Cuba.
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