Cuban president meets with US agricultural leaders
NEW YORK – Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel on Friday met with businessmen and leaders of various organizations in the US agricultural sector, organized by the US Agricultural Coalition for Cuba (USACC) and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) at the Cuban embassy in New York.
Diaz-Canel praised the efforts of the US agricultural sector for the two countries to have normal relations, and added that it is “the sector with which we have had some possibility, very limited, to be able to have economic and commercial exchange.
Diaz-Canel recalled that “there were times when we imported from the United States more than 1.1 billion dollars in a year, a figure that has been reduced because, with the limitations of the blockade, it is imposed on us that we have to pay cash and we are also limited in the numbers in which we can do it”.
The Cuban leader said that, despite of the strengthening of the US embargo, “we remain open to dialogue.”
He said that the reason why there has been a setback in the re-establishment of relations “only has to do with the fact that there are interests of a minority that, profiting from politics, tries to stop those relations.
“We want to confirm before you that we come with a message of dialogue. We are not going to close at any time the possibility of conversing, but always on a basis of respect, without conditioning and without impositions.
“It is very important that people like you can visit Cuba, that we can talk, exchange so that our reality is really known and, based on that, create all the strength and the construction of unity that will allow us to end the blockade,” he said
Diaz Canel said that Cuba has to import annually more than $2 billion in food, “in very complex conditions, with countries that are at an enormous distance, where the payment for freight is very high, where, in fact, prices rise because they know the needs and limitations that we have.”
He also valued the opportunities of the Cuban market which, although small in size, is safe, because it involves supplying an entire population of 11 million people.
The president said the exchange can be mutually beneficial.
“What does bother and hurt us,” he emphasized, “is that sometimes a ship loaded with food goes from the United States to Cuba, because we have been able to buy it, and then it returns empty when it could return with our merchandise.”
He also explained that there could be transfers of technologies and scientific exchanges, because “although we are a country with modest resources, we also have good scientific development”.
“We have brought,” he concluded, “a message of peace, of unity, of understanding and also of convocation.”
The meeting was attended by, among others, Barbara Glenn, executive director of NASDA; Paul Johnson, president of USACC; Thomas Sleigth, executive director of the U.S. Grain Council; and the commissioners of Agriculture of the states of Connecticut, Virginia and New Mexico.
Thanks to the work of this sector, since 2001, sales of agricultural products and food to Cuba began, which are made in only one direction, since the ban on exports from the island to the United States is maintained.
Recently, the US Senate approved an amendment to the Agricultural Bill that, if finally endorsed by the House of Representatives, would allow the promotion in Cuba of US agricultural products with official funds.
However, this amendment, which is a step in the right direction, is still far from facilitating agricultural trade with Cuba and private credits, the US agricultural community says.