Cuba's Wheat Market
Cuba is the largest importer of wheat and wheat products in the Caribbean, taking virtually all of its 1 million tons per year of imports from the European Union (EU). Continued demand for wheat-based products should lead to steady import growth, although financing restrictions will likely impede U.S. exports.
Production and Consumption
Cuba must import wheat for all its consumption needs. With the loss of Soviet financial assistance in the early 1990’s, per capita consumption of wheat and wheat products in Cuba fell from over 120 kilograms per person to about 84 kilograms per person. Per capita consumption, however, has rebounded nearly 30 percent since its low in 1996, and is expected to continue to rise as consumers are introduced to an increasingly wide array of wheat-based foods.
Cuba’s main wheat supplier is the EU, which has completely dominated the market since 1993/94. For example, in 1999/00, 80 percent (721,000 tons) of Cuba’s wheat came from the EU. This year, USDA estimates that Cuba will import 1 million tons of wheat and wheat products–including 150,000 tons of flour–35 percent more than all wheat imports by the rest of the Caribbean region.
ALIMPORT is the Cuban state enterprise responsible for the importation of most commodities, including wheat. Logistically, the port cities of Havana, Cienfuegos, Santiago, and Antilla each can handle wheat shipments of about 30,000 tons, with Havana and Cienfuegos handling the bulk of wheat imports.
The Ministry of Food Industries (MFI) operates Cuba’s five wheat flour mills, with milling capacities ranging from 160 to 420 tons per day. To keep pace with current consumer demand, construction of additional capacity is under consideration. Most baking enterprises are owned by the MFI, while pasta plants, cookie and biscuit plants, and sweet goods and confectionary enterprises are operated by another Cuban government entity, the Union Confiteria.
Exports and the U.S. Law
Since the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act was signed into law in 2000, U.S. exporters have been allowed to sell agricultural commodities to Cuba. However, the changes in U.S. trade restrictions with Cuba were not comprehensive. Exporters should check with USDA, the U.S. Department of State, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control for the most up-to-date regulations and requirements for trade with Cuba.
For information regarding this fact sheet, please contact Cynthia Iglesias at (202) 690-4134 or via e-mail at email@example.com
For more information on trade with Cuba, see the Frequently Asked Questions: Trade With Cuba at http://www.fas.usda.gov/itp/cuba/cuba.html on the FAS website.