By Jason Huffman
Arkansas rice growers have much to gain from a prospective end to the U.S.'s travel and trade embargos, says the coalition Engage Cuba in a report issued Wednesday ahead of Obama's trip. The Natural State is the U.S.'s number one rice exporter and "Cuba has the highest per capita rice consumption in the Western Hemisphere - about 177lbs per person compared to 26lbs in the U.S.," the report notes. Since fiscal 2009, Cuba has not imported much U.S. rice, instead buying the grain from Vietnam and Brazil, but in fiscal 2004 the U.S. held nearly 40 percent of the market share.
Arkansas poultry, soybeans and corn producers also have a chance to step up exports to Cuba, the report notes. So do agricultural producers in Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas.
Overall, Cuba imports up to 80 percent of its food, the report adds. In 2014, agricultural imports totaled almost $2 billion. And the demand is expected to grow as increased tourism fuels more demand, but the U.S. trails the EU, Brazil and Argentina in agricultural exports there, the group says.