Agricultural goods produced in the United States and exported to Cuba have reached $298 million, more than double than in 2003, according to a Texas Cooperative Extension economist

“Sales could exceed $400 million for 2004, ranking Cuba the 25th largest market for U.S. agricultural exports,” said Dr. Parr Rosson, Extension economist and director of the Center for North American Studies at Texas A&M University, College Station.

“Growth in the Cuban market has become especially important as the U.S. agricultural trade surplus has narrowed over the last two years.”

Importantly for Texas, Rosson said, rice was the top export to Cuba for the first eight months of 2004 with sales reaching $64 million.

“This is seven fold larger than for the same period of 2003 and four times greater than rice export sales to Cuba since shipments began in 2002.”

Cuba is now the third largest market for U.S. rice behind Japan and Mexico. Key factors favoring U.S. rice are proximity and quick delivery, quality and cleanliness, and price, Rosson said.

“Cubans also have a preference for U.S. rice that dates to pre-embargo days when many local dishes were prepared using high quality rice varieties shipped from the United States.”

Broiler exports have increased with sales reaching $45 million through the end of August.

“This eight-month total is 140 percent above the same period last year and even surpasses annual total broiler sales to Cuba for 2002 and 2003 by almost 20 percent,” Rosson said.

“This export growth also benefits Texas and is especially important as the state recovers from outbreaks of avian influenza this past year.”

Corn, wheat, milk, powder, soy flour and soybeans are among the other top exports, he said. Wheat exports to Cuba are 100 percent above 2003, while corn exports are up 87 percent and soybeans are up 60 percent.

“Milk powder and soy flour are new exports for 2004 and are valued at $21 million and $18 million, respectively,” Rosson said. “Much of the soy flour is being used to manufacture protein-enhanced ice cream for distribution in many of Cuba's highly urbanized areas. All of these products are important to Texas agriculture and stress the importance of Cuba as a growing market with strong potential.”