- The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service posted requirements last week for federally inspected meat, poultry and egg plants in the U.S. to export their products to Cuba.
- Products now eligible include fresh and frozen beef, pork, sheep, goat, poultry, and fresh and frozen products derived from these meats. The export requirements restrict birds from some states because of avian flu outbreaks.
- Meat and poultry exporters to Cuba must abide by U.S. Department of Treasury requirements, document their shipments with letters of certificate for export and perform cash sales.
U.S. exports to Cuba have been open for some time, but requirements like cash sales have made the exchanges too onerous for many manufacturers to pursue. However, legislation that would enable private financing of U.S. exports to Cuba is before Congress.
Cuba is still a relatively small market, importing an average of about $250 million in U.S. food products from 2013 to 2015. Meat and poultry comprised about half of that. The Dominican Republic is similar in economic size, but imports about $1.3 billion in U.S. food products.
While such numbers could signal challenges manufacturers face in this market, they also suggest opportunities to establish U.S. brands there. Because of Cuba's unique historical and political landscape, consumers there aren't necessarily interested in all of the same trends as Americans. This enables manufacturers to dig into their portfolios for previous products and brands that could suit this market, or to develop new products.
Cuba also offers possibilities in terms of establishing retailer and supplier relationships. Cuban farmers can bring new or possibly more cost-effective sources of ingredients, especially organic ones, as farmers there have not used pesticides for more than two decades. As demand for organic food continues to grow in the United States, manufacturers have had to increase their organic acreage sourcing or look elsewhere.
Still, manufacturers have to weigh on an individual basis the export logistics involved versus the ultimate size of the U.S. export market to Cuba. If the market is not yet established enough, or the logistics are too complex or cost-prohibitive, then the time may not be right to pursue it.