Chicago Archer Daniels Midland Co. and several other food processors have agreed to sell Cuba grains and soybeans in the first such deals in 40 years, a move prompted by the devastation caused by Hurricane Michelle.
A joint venture of ADM and Kansas City, Mo.-based Farmland Industries will sell hard, red winter wheat to Cuba, ADM vice president Larry Cunningham said Wednesday.
ADM on Tuesday reached an agreement to sell several thousand tons of corn to Cuba and on Wednesday agreed to sell several thousand tons of soybean meal, rice and raw soybeans, Cunningham said. Negotiations are continuing on the sale of dry edible beans and cooking oil.
"Obviously, it's exciting news," Cunningham said. "It's been roughly 40 years since an American food company has sold any product in Cuba. We're hopeful that it will lead to further relationships."
Minneapolis-based Cargill Inc. will sell corn, wheat and soybean oil. And Richard Bell, president of Stuttgart, Ark.-based Riceland Foods Inc., says his company donated rice to Cuba last year and will be selling rice to Cuba for the first time since the embargo was imposed. The shipments are expected to begin arriving early next year.
Congress approved food exports to Cuba in 2000, easing a trade embargo imposed in 1961 but watered down the measure by prohibiting U.S. financing of such transactions. Cuban purchases of U.S. medical supplies have been legal since 1992.
Enraged by the restrictions, Cuba said it would not buy any food until sanctions were eased more. But Cuban President Fidel Castro softened that stance after his country was hit hard by Hurricane Michelle.
Cuba declined a U.S. offer of humanitarian aid after the hurricane destroyed crops and thousands of homes and killed five people on Nov. 4 but proposed a one-time cash purchase of American food and medicine.
The sale agreement is a symbolic step in building a Cuba-U.S. relationship that many have been hoping for, according to Harold Kauffman, professor and assistant dean of International Activities at the University of Illinois in Champaign.