Cuba could eventually be a significant buyer from Missouri rice growers, said Mike Downing, director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development, at a meeting of the Missouri Development Finance Board on Tuesday.
Downing accompanied the Missouri delegation that included Gov. Jay Nixon to Cuba earlier this year. For the trip, Martin Rice Company of Bernie, Mo., contributed 20 tons of rice to Cuba, where it is a staple food.
“Lots of potential, but lots of obstacles, too, remain in Cuba, mostly in agricultural trade,” Downing said.
Missouri agricultural exports to Cuba will have to wait until trade issues are resolved. President Barack Obama visited Cuba earlier this year as part of an effort to normalize diplomatic relations, but it will require action by U.S. Congress to lift the trade embargo that has been in place since 1960.
Cuba imports about 50 percent of its food. Missouri, meanwhile, is the fifth biggest producer of rice in the U.S. and the fourth biggest exporter. The value of its rice exports in 2014 was $96.6 million, according to the University of Missouri Crop Resource Guide.