The first shipment of commercial cargo from the United States to Cuba in more than 40 years may be loaded this week at the Port of South Louisiana. Archer Daniels Midland Co. is shipping 24,000 tons of corn to Cuba, company officials said. Archer Daniels contracted in late November with the Cuban government to sell the food to the island country after it was hit by Hurricane Michelle, Nov. 5.
The corn likely will be loaded onto a vessel chartered by Archer Daniels at a company-owned grain elevator in Ama, La., which is north of New Orleans. The vessel will carry the shipment to the Port of Havana.While the shipment could 'very possibly' go out later this week, the company is still awaiting some government paperwork, an ADM spokesman said. As a result, it is still not clear exactly when the commodity will move, the spokesman said.
Although the U.S. imposed trade sanctions against Cuba 41 years ago, shortly after its current president, Fidel Castro, rose to power, legislation went into effect earlier this year allowing the sale of food and medicines to Cuba. However, that law still blocked financing mechanisms, which effectively blocked the export of many goods from the U.S.
The U.S. offered humanitarian aid following the hurricane's devastation of central Cuba. Cuban officials said no, but came back with a one-time counteroffer to buy food and medicine.
Subsequently, executives from Archer Daniels Midland Co., Cargill Inc. and Riceland Foods Inc. flew to Havana just before Thanksgiving to sign agreements with the state-run Alimport, the Cuban agency responsible for importing food. In addition to corn, the commodities that will be sold include soybeans, rice, corn and wheat.
Crowley Liner Services also has entered into a contract with the government of Cuba to transport frozen poultry and dry food products from the U.S. and is awaiting word on when the first shipments can move.