HAVANA – Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon began on Monday an official visit to Cuba, accompanied by representatives from a score of companies, on a mission to increase trade between the U.S. Midwestern state and the communist-ruled island.
“Missouri growers produce extremely high-quality, long-grain rice that because of our proximity and transportation efficiencies could be sold to Cuban consumers at costs competitive with rice producers in other nations now exporting to Cuba,” the governor said at the inauguration of an entrepreneurial forum in Havana.
Nixon said Missouri is a world leader in the production of many foods consumed in Cuba, such as rice, soybeans and poultry, and also has an export potential in fertilizers, renewable energy and farm machinery, products greatly needed to rehabilitate a farm infrastructure so fragile that the island is forced to spend more than $2 billion a year on imported food items.
The governor said that agricultural exports from his state produced revenues worth some $2.5 billion in 2014 and “we are here to expand opportunities to get Missouri goods to Cuban consumers.”
He recalled that thanks to the two rivers crossing the state, the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, any shipment can arrive easily and inexpensively to the Gulf of Mexico and from there to Cuba.
In just that way a 20-ton shipment of rice last Wednesday reached the newly renovated Port of Mariel near Havana, a symbolic donation from the Martin Rice Company of Missouri to show how uncomplicated bilateral trade with the island can be.
Nixon and the delegation accompanying him will visit Tuesday the Mariel Special Economic Zone, and will also meet with officials including Agriculture Minister Julian Gonzalez and Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas.