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U.S. rice producers may not share in increased Cuban imports
The Cuban government’s food buying agency, ALIMPORT, could import up to 1 million metric tons of rice annually by the end of the decade. But U.S. rice producers may not participate in the increase from current levels of 712,000 metric tons.

Cuban President Fidel Castro announced during a meeting with USA Rice Federation leaders in his offices in Havana Aug. 25 that Cuba would buy 100,000 metric tons of U.S. paddy rice and 30,000 metric tons of U.S. milled rice for delivery between September and January of 2006.

Castro and Pedro Alvarez, chairman and CEO of ALIMPORT (the Empresa Cubana Importadora de Alimentos), said the Cuban people prefer American rice to that of other countries. But new restrictions on shipments of rice and other products are souring the Cuban government on U.S. rice.

“Cuba is being deprived of rice that is very much liked by the Cuban people,” said Alvarez, speaking at the First Cuba-USA Rice Federation Rice Conference at the Hotel Nacional in Havana prior to the meeting with Castro. “We have to wonder why if there are excess supplies of rice in the United States there are restrictions on the sale of rice to Cuba.”

Alvarez thanked leaders of the Rice Federation for their efforts to remove the recent trade restrictions but said more needs to be done to allow trade and travelers to flow freely between the two countries.

Cuban officials were obviously annoyed at new Treasury Department regulations aimed at restricting food shipments to the island. Last December, the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued new rules requiring the Cuban government to pay for such shipments before they leave U.S. ports instead of on delivery.

U.S. rice sales to Cuba were down nearly 50 percent by volume and 62 percent by value for the January-May 2005 period, primarily due to the new restrictions, according to USA Rice Federation officials.

The House has passed legislation introduced by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson, R-Mo., which would require the Treasury Department to stop enforcing the OFAC rules for one year. Similar legislation has passed the Senate Treasury Appropriations Subcommittee and Senate Appropriations Committee and is awaiting a floor vote.
MGR Archive 1.9.2005
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Russia Rapan $ 700
USA Jupiter Rice $630
USA Calrose #1 $830
USA Calrose #1 Paddy $480
EU Prices Baldo €660
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