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CBS Miami

US-Cuba exports decline

By Hank Tester,


MIAMI - Periodic protests continue throughout Cuba punctuated with cries for freedom,"libertad."

But the underlying issues are far more basic. It is about food, as a Cuban citizen told author and Cuba expert Dr. Andy Gomez.

Gomez related the conversation with an island citizen, "You guys in Miami don't understand. This is more about "Vida," life and being able to live and to have food...."

Gomez, who is an author, Cuban historian, retired member of the University of Miami Faculty, says Cuba's rock bottom economy and its inability to provide for the islands 11 million residents continues to promote strife.

Gomez takes it a step further, "If we were to lift the embargo tomorrow Cuba is far from being able to implement a wide open Market."

That's a dire indicator as there is not much hope anytime soon for the average Cuban citizen scrambling daily to make it through life where food is basic and a hefty portion comes from the United States.

The headline: Cuban Government controlled food purchases and imported from the U.S. are down 21%.

John Kavulich the President of the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council says, "They are not importing as much overall because they don't have money."

In 2021, U.S. to Cuba Commodity Exports such as chicken totaled twenty-eight and a half million. By 2022, down to 26 million and the 12 month period ending in March of 2023 almost 20.5 million.

In the year 2000, the U.S. Congress passed the Trade Sanctions Reform Act that allowed agricultural and food products to be exported to Cuba, despite the embargo, but the Cuban government agencies had to pay in cash.

On the island, cash is tight these days as tourism is sputtering, fuel is scarce and remittances are impacted by the U.S. economy.

All those issues added to Cuba's supply chain.

Andy Gomez says just moving food products is a challenge. "The logistic to just get a chicken from the port of Havana to the middle of Cuba with a poor railroad system, poor trucking system, with poor roads."

Cuba used to be a major producer of coffee, now they have to import from the U.S. Why is that possible? John Kavulich answers saying, "One incredible mismanagement. Two, state involvement which makes it inefficient. Three, whether the area where the plantations are have gotten pummeled every year."

One bright light continues to be off island websites such as Katapulk, where a wider variety of allowed goods can be sent to Cuba if you have the money or financial support that usually comes from remittances from families outside of the Island.

Kavulich says, "In terms of a variety of products outside of agricultural commodities, food products, health care products... those are personal care products, these numbers have increased remarkably."

Cuba has never been able to feed itself. It currently imports 60-80% of the food it consumes. The internet is one of the few places where Cubans can find commodities such as antibiotics, soap or toilet paper.

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