Maine Growers Eye Cuba Market

Published online: Mar 18, 2005 MPB
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Maine potato growers used the down time of winter and the hope of exporting more potatoes to take their second trade visit to Cuba last week.

Led by Joe Lallalnde, president and CEO of the Maine Potato Growers, the group went with the intention of building upon ground work laid in  the first trade trip to Cuba last December.

Lallande said, "We had a very productive trip and we are encouraged by the potential this market represents for Maine potato growers."

The team visited potato fields in three provinces, all major production areas, and met with key officials of Alimport, the Cuban food import agency.

Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, has been working closely on this export project.

"I am enthusiastic about this new market potential for Maine potatoes, and our board members have appropriated funding to support futher development of this market," Flannery stated.

Maine is currently negotiating with Cuba for an initial sale of 1,000 metric tons of seed and an unspecified quantity of tablestock potatoes for shipment in November of 2005.

Lallande said the potential for future transactions is much greater. Cuba imports 30,000 to 36,000 metric tons of seed each year. Canada currently supplies two-thirds of the total and the balance of Cuba's requirements are currently supplied by European seed producers.

"Maine has an outstanding reputation in the marketplace as producers of quality seed, which provides us with the competitive advantage to leverage a larger share of the Cuban seed  market going forward," said Lallande.

Another team will visit with APHIS in July to harmonize Cuba's phytosanitary requirements with U.S. standards. At the same time, Cuba will send a team to visit Maine growers to observe crop production and inspect the sheds where the product will be packed for export to Cuba.