It may have taken a five-hour meeting with Cuban President Fidel Castro to do it, but a USA Rice Federation trade delegation was able to sell 130,000 metric tons of U.S. rough and milled rice to Cuba's ALIMPORT grain-buying agency.
When the 14 members of the USA Rice group were invited to the Cuban leader's office in Havana for an 8:30 p.m. meeting, few had any idea of what was in store for them. But they began to get an idea when Castro launched into a lecture on his government's efforts to provide small, electric rice cookers to 2 million families.
Castro went into great detail on the amount of energy the rice cookers use compared to the kerosene stoves most families use to cook rice, a staple of the Cuban diet. He also talked about energy-efficient, diesel-powered buses he was buying from China and other energy-saving measures being undertaken by his government.
“We are doing all of these things so that we can buy more rice from the United States,” Castro said about 90 minutes into the meeting.
Cuban purchases of U.S. grain and other agricultural products have dropped nearly 50% after the U.S. Treasury Department announced new rules requiring Cuba to pay for any shipments of U.S. ag products before they leave U.S. ports. USA Rice leaders said the sale was probably worth about $25 million.