Northern Feed and Bean among Colorado groups that traveled to Cuba to discuss agriculture exports
December 15, 2017
LUCERNE, Colo. — Colorado agriculture took a step toward a trade relationship with Cuba last month, despite the current embargo on the country.
Colorado Agriculture Commissioner Don Brown, along with members of the World Trace Center Denver, Northern Feed and Bean and others, met with Cuban leaders during a trip Nov. 12-16 to Cuba.
An embargo, placed on Cuba by President Donald Trump, reversed a decision by former President Obama. The embargo was once again placed on the nation after a mysterious sonic attack against U.S. diplomats in the country. While the source and actual cause has not been determined, Trump quickly rolled back some of the business with the country that had been temporarily opened.
Brown said the trip was open to anyone in the agriculture industry in Colorado, and the planning started about a year ago, before the embargo was put back in place.
The embargo, however, doesn't prevent the exchange of agriculture or medicinal goods, which allows some companies, such as Northern Feed and Bean, to start a relationship with buyers in the country.
The catch? Cuba must pay up front for its goods in dealing with any U.S. company, and the country isn't exactly in the best financial shape.
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But Larry Lande, owner and general manager of Northern Feed and Bean, said the company, based in Lucerne, will continue talks with Cuba to open the possibility of a partnership.
"They have no money, so they don't want to prepay any more than they have to, so everything else is being bought on credit with other countries," Lande said. But it was neat, it was fun, it was interesting and we're kind of pumped up."
RELYING ON IMPORTS
Lande said the company hopes a partnership between Northern Feed and Cuba can happen, especially since about 80 percent of Cuba's food is imported and the country only had black beans imported. The pinto bean market has been untapped for about 10 years, according to Lande.
But Cuba can get credit with China and Venezuela — the two countries that export black beans to Cuba — and has to prepay for American imports. That makes it hard when a country isn't thriving financially. The U.S. does export chicken and rice to Cuba, so beans aren't a top priority.
Lande hopes that will change once the embargo is lifted, with Northern Feed at the forefront.
Brown hopes the same, only with Colorado agriculture as a whole.
The group met with the ministers of agriculture, trade and foreign investment and foreign relations, which are Cuba's equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and other cabinet-level positions.
"It was quite obvious they wanted to do business with us," Brown said.
Lande said many, including those who work for Alimport, the body that controls everything that is imported into Cuba, really pushed for the group to talk with U.S. politicians to get the embargo lifted.
It would be beneficial for Colorado, too, according to Brown because it would expand the amount of Colorado agriculture exports, which already is about a quarter of agriculture production.
Plus, it wouldn't just be exports from Colorado. According to Brown, the hope was, when the embargo is lifted, for Cuban cigars and rum to be traded to Colorado as well.
But before that happens, the hope for Lande is to try to find a way to start selling pinto beans, albeit at a lower price, to start that relationship.
"Obviously, with the embargo on, you can't get overly excited yet, but we're still going to try to sell them a few beans if it's acceptable and I know it takes a while to get permits and get everything put together, but we're going to have our guy, who lives in Miami, go back to Cuba," Lande said.
— Fox is a reporter for The Fence Post. She can be reached at (970) 392-4410, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @FoxonaFarm.