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Trade with Cuba could affect Missouri’s economy

It’s been three months since President Obama shook hands with Cuban leader Raul Castro.

The relationship with Cuba could strengthen every aspect of agriculture in Missouri.

Crops, livestock, even machinery are all expected to be exported to Cuba beginning sometime in the next few years.

After more than a half-century long embargo with Cuba, the U.S. could resume trading with the island nation.

It’s a big opportunity for Missouri, a largely agricultural state.

“I remember the governor said, ‘if we’re going to Cuba, Missouri’s going to be the first state there,'” said Richard Fordyce with the Missouri Department of Agriculture.

Earlier this year, more than 35 representatives of Missouri’s agricultural industries traveled to Cuba on a trade mission.

Department of Agriculture Director Richard Fordyce was one of them.

“What we found there was certainly a lot of potential. It’s estimated that in 2015, Cuba will import $2.5 billion in food and food products that the United States and Missouri specifically could have a real role in providing that,” said Fordyce.

Fordyce said before the 1962 embargo, the number one destination for Rice exported from Missouri was to Cuba. He believes the market is still there for that crop and many other resources.

“One of the things that we noticed about Cuba is how far behind they are from a technology standpoint. Yields and productivity are 50 years behind where we are here in Missouri.”

There’s also potential to export equipment and other technology.

What puts Missouri at such an advantage for trading with Cuba is its proximity to the Mississippi River.

Fordyce said barges should be able to be loaded up with goods and navigate down the river into the gulf and Cuba.

That cargo transportation process is much cheaper than many of Cuba’s alternatives.

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