Emerging Markets for U.S. Agriculture: Focus on Cuba
Agriculture is twice as reliant on exports as the overall U.S. economy, and since the early 1970s, exports have accounted for 30 percent of total farm receipts in most years.U.S. agricultural exports are forecast to reach a record of $137 billion in 2011.As U.S. farm policy expenditures shrink and the world emerges from the most prolonged economic recession in decades, it is increasingly important to cultivate new export markets for agricultural products.
Figure 1. U.S. Agricultural Trade, 1989-2011F
Although the embargo of Cuba remains in place, recent changes in U.S. policy have improved agriculture’s access to that market.Under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000, U.S. businesses may export food, agricultural and forestry products, and medicines to Cuba.And though the U.S. government tightly controls exchange with Cuba, company representatives may now travel to Cuba and negotiate export sales.
Selling to Cuba
In 2000, the TSRA granted an exemption to the embargo that allows producers to travel to Cuba, to use U.S. currency for marketing, and ultimately to sell agricultural goods to Cuba under cash-in-advance terms.Since the TSRA was implemented, the United States has become Cuba’s fourth largest trading partner behind Venezuela, China, and Spain.Though it varies according to product type, the United States is Cuba’s largest supplier of imported food during most years.Despite the embargo and financial restrictions, U.S. exports to Cuba reached $711 million in 2008 before declining in both 2009 and 2010.Cuba has become the 12thlargest market in the Western Hemisphere for our agricultural products.Although the United States and Cuba have no official diplomatic relations, Switzerland had represented U.S. interests in Cuba since 1961 and Cuba’s interests in the United States since 1991. These interests sections handle requests for entry visas, analyze policy, and help businesses with contact information in their respective markets.
Figure 2. U.S. Exports to Cuba, 2002-May 2011
Products and Protocols
An agricultural product in this context includes raw commodities, such as corn and wheat; semi-processed products such as powdered milk; processed foods such as snacks, meats, and beverages; and condiments, forestry products, and some fertilizers. However, agricultural machinery, irrigation equipment and most other implements is excluded.TSRA requires that all U.S. exports to Cuba be shipped under cash-in-advance terms or be financed by a non-U.S. or non-Cuban institution.Under cash-in-advance, payment must be received by the U.S. exporter before title to the goods is transferred to Cuba. If purchases are to be financed, only third party financing is permitted; U.S. banks may not finance exports to Cuba.
Products and Protocols cont.
The Cuban government’s buying agency,EmpresaCubanaImportadadeAlimentos(Alimport), handles all U.S. exports to the island.Alimportis Cuba’s exclusive agent for all purchases from the United States and negotiates purchases, handles all documents, and arranges logistics and transportation of goods.Before a U.S. firm may take samples or export its products to Cuba, each product must be reviewed and licensed by the Office of Exporter Services, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), U.S. Department of Commerce.The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulates travel to Cuba and use of U.S. currency there. As of September 2008, U.S. exporters may travel to Cuba under a General License which does not require prior approval by the OFAC. This travel must involve commercial marketing, sales negotiations, delivery or servicing agricultural products in Cuba.
Products and Protocols cont.
However, exporters must submit their travel plans to the OFAC at least 14 days in advance, maintain a record of expenses, and adhere to the State Department per diem limit.Exporters must keep a full work schedule while in Cuba and submit a written report within 14 days of their return.Direct air travel to Cuba from the United States must be arranged through approved travel agents on designated charter airlines. Air charter service to Cuba departs from Miami, New York, and Los Angeles. Tampa, New Orleans, Dallas, Houston, Baltimore, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Fort Lauderdale, Atlanta, and Puerto Rico were approved for departures in 2011, but as of August 2011 had not begun service. It is also legal to travel to Cuba via Mexico.
The Cuban Economy
Cuba’s population of 11.1 million uses a dual currency system. Theconvertible peso(CUC) is what the government uses to purchase U.S. exports. The CUC is also the currency for the tourism and retail sectors. Thenational peso(CUP) is the currency in which Cuban nationals receive government salaries and is what they use for purchases in most of the subsidized food markets. The CUP is valued at 24 per 1 U.S. dollar, so it buys much less than the CUC.About 85 percent of the Cuban population works for the government in some capacity and is paid in CUP. However, they often need to buy food and other necessities that are valued in CUC. As a result, the purchasing power of people who depend on government salaries is further eroded.
The Cuban Economy cont.
Though the per capita Gross Domestic Product of $5,128 is relatively low by most standards, that figure nearly doubles when government-subsidized housing, health care, transportation, and food are taken into account. However, the average Cuban earns the equivalent of about $20/month in salary from the government. As a result, actual market purchasing power is quite limited.In the international market, Cuba needs convertible currency to buy imported goods. The island nation has three main income sources: nickel, remittances, and tourism.
The Cuban Market for Food Products
Cuba’s ability to produce grain and oilseed crops is limited by poor soil conditions, undesirable rainfall patterns, high humidity, insect infestations, and lack of pesticide or biological controls. These conditions suggest that Cuba will continue to be a significant regional market for grain, oilseed crops, and other food products.The Cuban market for food products has three major segments:International visitors/tourists have the most purchasing power. Cuban revenue from this sector was $2.2 billion in 2010 and was a major source of foreign exchange.Cubans who have access to foreign currency also buy imported foods. About 60 percent of Cubans who receive remittances have jobs that pay factory and farm bonuses or work in the hospitality business and receive tips. Remittances reached nearly $2.0 billion during 2010, creating additional demand for U.S. food products.The least affluent segment of the Cuban population is represented by the 40 percent of people who have no access to hard currency. They rely solely on their salaries and have little opportunity to buy imported foods.
Figure 3. Composition of U.S. Agricultural and Related Exports to Cuba, 2009 and 2010
What Does Cuba Buy?
U.S. exports to Cuba in 2010 plummeted by 48 percent from the record of $711 million set in 2008. Four major products represented about 85 percent of all U.S. exports to Cuba: frozen poultry, corn, soybeans and products, and wheat. Animal feeds, which have been strong over the past few years, and pork are the other exports consistently among the top categories.In 2010, exports to Cuba included: poultry meats at $109 million; frozen pork cuts and hams at $15.3 million; corn at $94.8 million; and soybeans and other products at $81.1 million.Other food exports to Cuba include dry beans, dairy products, margarine, and fruits.Cuban imported $5.6 million in dry beans from the U.S. in 2010.Dairy product exports for 2010, which included butter, milk concentrate, and donated dairy products were $2.6 million.Margarine exports, including edible oil, were $2.5 million in 2010.Apple exports of $1.2 million, and grape/raisins were $714,000 in 2010.
To visit Cuba, prospective U.S. exporters must obtain a general license from the U.S. Treasury and Cuban business visa from the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C.U.S. exports to Cuba must be licenses by the U.S. Department of Commerce and approved by the Cuban food import agency,Alimport, which handles all imports and documentation from U.S. suppliers.Cash payment for all sales to Cuba must be received before the title to the goods is transferred toAlimport.U.S. banks may not extend credit to Cuba or handle financial transactions; payment is generally managed through a third-country bank, usually in France.
Though U.S. exports to Cuba have declined in recent years, market prospects remain fairly sound.Currently, frozen poultry, corn, soybeans and wheat account for about 80 percent of U.S. exports to Cuba.Income from tourism, remittances, and nickel exports will ultimately determine Cuba’s ability to import foods from the United States.As the Cuban market matures and world economic conditions improve, this product mix will shift toward more high-value and processed foods. In the near term, U.S. and Cuban trade policies and regulations will strongly influence U.S. export prospects.