The United States slowly normalizing diplomacy with Cuba may be better for both parties than initially thought, as the formally embargoed country sets its eyes on Louisiana rice. L.A. farmers believe that allowing Cuba to purchase approximately 600,000 tons of rice a year will provide a significant agricultural boom for the state. As president Obama shows favor in lifting the decades-long trade and tourism restrictions on Cuba, American citizens are eager to get their hands on Cuban cigars. Meanwhile, farmers and agriculture officials agree that Louisiana is in a perfect position to benefit from the increase in trade relations.
Elton Kennedy, a Louisiana farmer who grows thousands of acres of rice in the northeast, claims that a trade deal with Cuba will be a huge boost, and believes Cuba will be Louisiana’s biggest customer. The country’s close proximity will also help ease the current cost of exporting large volumes of rice to countries like Iraq. Rice can be transported to Cuba for a fraction of the cost. Louisiana Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain exalts Cuba as its closest trading partner.
Unfortunately the gradual lift on trade restriction currently comes at a cost. U.S. farmers are still unable to sell their products to Cuba unless transactions are made entirely in cash. Furthermore, Cuba still needs to secure the funds to make profitable trades with Louisiana. Cubans are banking on the sell of authentic cigars to help raise the necessary money. Meanwhile, some members of congress, including Cuban-American U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, are in favor of withholding money from the new Havana based embassy, making it difficult for U.S. – Cuban trade relations to improve.
With lingering concerns regarding Cuban human rights violations, not everyone is in favor of the new trade opportunity. However, it is difficult for those along the Mississippi river to deny the strong value in trading its commodities with the Cubans. In addition to rice, talks of wheat and poultry trade have also been in the works.
Only time will tell if Cuba actually has the opportunity to trade its highly coveted cigars with the U.S. However, with constant negotiations in the words, it’s simply a matter of time.