Cuba Trip Yields Small Sale, Big Contacts
December 20, 2002
The Northarvest Bean Growers Associations third trip to Cuba this year generated another small sale of dry beans from the region and some big contacts for the future.
"We are well positioned. We are ready to go" says Alan Juliuson, a Northarvest Bean Growers Association director and a Hope, N.D., farmer who traveled to Cuba as part of a delegation participating in the U.S. Food and Agriculture Products Exposition. "Cuba is going to need dry beans. It is only a matter of time."
Juliuson and Tim Courneya, Northarvests executive vice-president, represented the Growers Association at the trade show.
Pat Wallesen, marketing manager for Kirkeides Northland Bean Co.; Paul Montgomery, of PW Montgomery, Inc.; and Bill Thoreson, of North Central Commodities, also represented the regions dry bean industry.
The group returned to North Dakota and Minnesota from Havana with a contract to send a container of small red beans to Cuba.
Details of the sale are currently being worked out by PW Montgomery, Inc.
Northarvest directors went to Cuba two other times in 2002 and met with Cuba food import officials. They were part of delegations coordinated by the North Dakota Farm Bureau. The second trip culminated in the sale of a container of black and pinto beans. North Central Commodities handled shipping arrangements.
"The people who eventually received the product recognized the Northarvest logo and stopped to talk to us," Juliuson says. "They said they were extremely pleased with the quality and were ready to work with us on more sales."
Cuba could become an important market for Northarvest beans. The country currently imports 80,000 to 100,000 metric tons of mostly black beans annually. In comparison, Mexicos current import quota under the North America Free Trade Agreement is approximately 50,000 metric tons. Cuba currently gets most of its dry beans from China.
While optimistic about Cubas potential as a U.S. bean importer, the traders who made the trip to Havana agreed that it may take time to develop the business perhaps five years or more.
"There are a lot of barriers," Montgomery says. "There has been an embargo in place for 40 years. Their economy will have to improve. People dont have the money to buy beans. And there will be some strong competition from China and other countries."
Northarvest has laid a solid foundation for future sales.
"I was very impressed with the contacts the Northarvest Bean Growers Association has made," Wallesen says. "When all the trade restrictions are lifted, I think Northarvest will be well positioned to start doing business."