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Commodities common to Imperial Valley will be part of ag exhibition in Cuba

June 10, 2002|By MATT YOUNG

Special to this newspaper

WASHINGTON (MNS) —The second U.S. business exhibition in Cuba since 1959 is due to take place this fall, according to an official from the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc., and the focus will be on agribusiness.

PWN Exhibicon International LLC, which the official said also held the first U.S. business fair in Fidel Castro's Cuba two years ago, will hold a food and agribusiness exhibition in Havana this fall for five days. The U.S. Treasury Department and the Cuban government have approved the show.

‘‘There is no more cost-effective way to introduce products to a new market than through participation at an exhibition,'' said PWN president Peter Nathan in a news release.

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Nathan said commodities like wheat, cattle, melons, sugar beets, alfalfa and cotton, common to the Imperial Valley, would be a priority at the exhibition. He said he hopes to attract both large and small businesses.

‘‘I for one would be fascinated to go over there and participate just to see what is going on,'' said Larry Fleming, co-founder of Imperial Bioresources LLC, a company that hopes to produce ethanol, sugar and power.

While the exhibition is not a turnaround in U.S.-Cuba commercial relations, said U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council President John Kavulich, it is a part of the ‘‘re-normalization'' process of commerce between the two countries. Relations between the countries deteriorated when Castro adopted a communist regime and expropriated U.S. property soon after taking control of the government in 1959.

Hurdles still remain for American companies desiring to do business in Cuba, such as the fact that U.S. banks cannot finance sales to Cuba under U.S. law.

If trade restrictions were loosened, ‘‘Cuba would be a good trading partner'' for California, said Steve Pastor, manager of the Imperial County Farm Bureau.

‘‘California farmers ship all over the world,'' Pastor said. ‘‘Cuba is in the back yard.''

As for Imperial County farmers, Pastor said, ‘‘I'm sure they would love to ship wheat and cotton'' to Cuba. But vegetables, which are perishable, would be harder to ship over long distances, he said.

Bob Shank of Bob and Don Shank Ranches said while he was about to retire, ‘‘I'm sure there's a few young farmers that are looking for expansion areas'' like Cuba.

Nathan said he has not yet determined exhibition fees, but said he would only charge for the price of an exhibition booth.

Other products also may be featured at the exhibition as well, Nathan said, such as snack products, tobacco and some fertilizers.

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