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U.S. farm leaders call for end to embargo

December 22, 2003
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The Associated Press reports that American farm leaders have called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo during talks with communist Cuba that have resulted in at nearly $110 million in new U.S. food sales to the island. Interest by American food companies in doing more business with Cuba has grown even as the U.S. government tightens restriction on the island, including stepped-up enforcement of rules on American travel. Representing 147 agribusinesses, port authorities, supermarkets and other enterprises, the Americans traveled here for talks that began Monday to mark the second anniversary of the first U.S. commercial food shipments to post-revolutionary Cuba. That first shipment, US$300,000 worth of chicken parts, sailed into Havana Bay from Gulfport, Mississippi. on Dec. 16, 2001. Since then, Cuba has contracted to buy more than US$500 million in goods on a cash basis, communist officials say. An exception to U.S. trade sanctions against the island allows the direct commercial sales of U.S. agricultural goods, but prohibits American financing for the transactions. By the end of Wednesday, Cuban officials reported another US$25 million in new sales, bringing them closer to their goal of US$130 million for the three days of talks. The products included powdered milk, cotton, chicken and soy.
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