The top priority over the past year for the Cuban purchases was frozen chicken.
By Ivette Leyva Martinez (Café Fuerte)
HAVANA TIMES — Sales of food products from US companies to Cuba continued to plummet in 2013 declining to $348.7 million dollars, but there was a significant increase in US exports of medicines and medical equipment to the island.
According to statistics released this week by the USA-Cuba Economic and Trade Council, (USCTEC), purchases from Cuba’s state Alimport company in the US market in 2013 were the lowest in the past seven years, with a decrease of 23 percent compared to 2012.
Since Congress authorized commercial transactions with Cuba in 2000, only three times were the food sales below $350 million annually. Peak purchases occurred in 2008, with $710 million.
However, in the health care field, the sales reached $2.18 million, a slight but significant figure considering the constraints imposed by the embargo.
Unprecedented medical supply exports to Cuba
The amount was the largest amount of exports of medical equipment and medicines to Cuba in the last five years, a period in which the largest annual transactions were $234.718 US dollars, reported in 2012.
During the 13 years of sales of agricultural products to Cuba, the total amount of transactions amounted to $4.689 billion.
The largest purchases by Cuba in the US market last year were mostly frozen chicken ($144.3 million, 41% of all operations) soybean oil ($ 69.3 million), corn ($ 57.5 million) and soybeans ($39.4 million).
The statistical map prepared by USCTEC – an independent entity headquarted in New York-, is based on official reports of the US departments of Agriculture and Commerce, as well as records of exporting companies. However it does not include the added transportation costs, bank charges and other expenses arising from deliveries of goods to the island.
According to John S. Kavulich, the principal adviser USCTEC, among the main causes of the decline in purchases by Alimport from US firms figure the preference by Cuba to purchase products from exporters controlled by governments that offer more favorable payment conditions and less publicity when fees are not paid on time, due to financial difficulties being experienced by the island.
“For the Cuban government, it is easier to deal with payment problems with companies under state control, mostly Venezuela, China, Vietnam and Brazil,” Kavulich told Café Fuerte.” The transparency of international operations puts into question the financial capacity of Cuba.”
Illiquidity is hitting the Cuban economy hard. The issue of lack of funds was widely discussed behind closed doors, during the last two ordinary session of the National Assembly of Popular Power (parliament) in August and December 2013.
The Cuban government is forced to contribute annually more than $ 2 billion dollars to buy food abroad and compensate for the low production of agricultural products. Currently Venezuela and China appear to be the major food suppliers to Cuba.
Kavulich denied that the changes implemented since 2005 by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department to monitor financial transactions with Cuba are the cause of the decline in US sales.
“The earlier successful efforts of Cuba to motivate US companies, organizations, local government representatives and members of Congress to make more visible their lobbying efforts in favor of a change in US policy, has evaporated,” said executive.
Annual figures on Cuba’s purchases from the US market
2001 – $ 4,318,906
2002 – $ 138,634,784
2003 – $ 256,901,471
2004 – $ 391,990,382
2005 – $ 350,218,040
2006 – $ 340,433,442
2007 – $ 437,564,824
2008 – $ 710,086,323
2009 – $ 528,482,955
2010 – $ 366,467,782
2011 – $ 358,457,389
2012 – $ 457,318,357
2013 – $ 348,747,293
Total: $ 4,689,621,948
Source : USTEC