Cuba Buys Less Food and More Medicines from the USA

The top priority over the past year for the Cuban purchases was frozen chicken. 

By Ivette Leyva Martinez  (Café Fuerte)

The top priority over the past year for the Cuban purchases from the USA was frozen chicken.
The top priority over the past year for the Cuban purchases from the USA was frozen chicken.

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.

Less transparency

“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

21 thoughts on “Cuba Buys Less Food and More Medicines from the USA

  • I don’t get it… I thought there was an embargo? Yet it turns out the real problem is Cuba is short of funds. And the regime supporters, like there Cuban masters, expect everything to be given to Cuba pro bono.

    Reply
    • What is really funny is that Republican congressmen of these states want the embargo to be lifted. I guess it was Marx who said capitalists would sell the rope used to hang them?

      Reply
      • …it’s OK, Cuba can’t afford the rope.

        Reply
      • The precise quote from Karl Marx is,

        “The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope.”

        …thereby demonstrating that the Marxist tradition of murdering all those who disagree with them was baked into the ideology from the very beginning.

        Reply
        • I guess it was a Marxist who shot those people in the Jewish Cultural
          Center? White Patriot Party? Carolina KKK I studied in Louisiana know
          how the freedom loving capitalists act…

          Reply
          • The KKK are very bad people and if you studied them as you claim, I assume you know which US political party founded the KKK? The Democratic Party.

            But even at their worst, the KKK has not murdered a fraction of the the number of people the Marxists of the world have murdered.

  • Talk about bizarre coincidences. One of my dearest friends is the CEO of his family’s poultry business. That business is the largest of several US businesses who sell frozen whole fryers to Cuba. I did not realize this until I was in Cuba and saw the company name on a box that the owner of my casa particular was using for storage. Anyway, once back in the ‘States, I called my buddy up and got the whole scoop. He loves the business with Cuba. They are willing to accept unsold frozen chicken well past the ‘sell by’ date. They pay cash upfront and he has no marketing costs. He loves Cuban cigars, as do I, so everybody gets what they want.

    Reply
  • I asked my buddy why he thinks Cuba doesn’t raise their own chickens to eat. I mean, after all, every half-decent High School 4-H club in the US can raise chickens. His opinion was that chicken farming today is a technology and labor-intensive business that demands daily if not hourly attention to the chickens. He believes that in Cuba there is a problem with ensuring high quality chicken feed, keeping the chicken coops clean and free of disease and finally, people stealing the chickens. High quality feed ensures that the chickens grow quickly and to their maximum genetic potential, with or without steroids. Keeping the coops clean and disease free minimizes loss and promotes meat quality. Finally, even though most of the workers that my buddy employs are mostly lower-wage employees who run the feeders and clean out the manure, they earn more from their jobs than they could earn by stealing chickens to sell in the black market. He pays bonuses for production that exceeds goals so the employees are incented to increase production. As a result, it is cheaper for Cuba to buy frozen fryers from California than it is to raise fresh chickens in Camaguey.

    Reply
    • Moses, my esposa in Camagüey was working at a chicken farm when I first met her. I told her to quit once our relationship became committed. My esposa was earning only 9.75CUC per month. Her mother still works there and she earns 18….and she’s the jefa on shift. I agree, not a lot of money to be made in raising chickens in Cuba. I agree with everything you wrote…spot on. Perhaps your socio in Cam is my mother-in-law’s jefe. That would be a coincidence…and a small world too.

      Reply
  • Yes, there is the embargo. Nevertheless, there is the possibility of doing business between the two parties, as allowed by the US itself. Of course, there are conditions: it is a unidirectional trade, that is only the US selling to Cuba; Only food stuff; Cuba has to pay in advance and cash

    Reply
    • Other than Cuban cigars, what else does Cuba have that Americans want and can’t buy from somewhere else more cheaply and of higher quality?

      Reply
      • Smart ideas which is something that many anti Cuban stalwarts like you will never have. What about the vaccines Cuba has developed which are sold elsewhere except in the US???? The biomedical industry in Cuba, after the US is the most advanced in the Americas, but I a sure you did not know that or if you did you are in denial about something everyone (except those in Miami) know and use when they go to foreign countries.

        Reply
        • Anti-CASTRO not anti-Cuban.

          Reply
        • With respect, the Canadian biomedical industry is far more advanced than that of Cuba. Canadian universities are involved in world class research, and Canadian firms are developing and manufacturing innovative drugs, instruments and treatments. Cuba doesn’t even come close.

          Reply
          • You are right, I was referring to what we refer to “Our America” following Jose Marti, which does not include Canada or the USA. But Canada is a rich country you can compare Canada with the US.

          • Canada is a rich country because of our free and democratic system. Cuba would be a rich country today if the revolution to overthrow the dictator Batista had not been betrayed by those who wanted only power for themselves forever. Castroism has destroyed the wealth of the Cuban nation.

          • Really? Not because they stole the country from the First Nation people?

        • Hahaha! Touche’

          Reply
  • I am glad they are able to continue updating the medical equipment and medical supplies, but there are still some medicines the US still will not sell of allow US subsidiaries to sell to Cuba.

    Reply

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