HAVANA, Cuba – This morning, Cuba formally accepted a 20-ton shipment of high-quality, long-grain rice grown and processed in southeast Missouri. Gov. Jay Nixon announced the shipment during an address to an entrepreneurial forum being held for members of a Missouri trade delegation and Cuban businesses and officials from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Trade and Investment and the Cuba Chamber of Commerce.
“Missouri farmers and workers produce the highest-quality products in the world and we are here to expand opportunities to get Missouri goods to Cuban consumers,” Gov. Nixon said. “Missouri rice is a microcosm of the opportunities trade offers. Missouri growers produce extremely high-quality, long-grain rice that because of our proximity and transportation efficiencies could be sold to Cuban consumers at costs competitive with rice producers in other nations now exporting to Cuba. Trade with Cuba would mean additional acreage for Missouri growers of this high-value crop and it would also mean better values for Cuban consumers, for whom rice is a staple of their diet.
There have been no U.S. rice sales to Cuba since 2008. The rice delivered to Cuba is from theMartin Rice Company of Bernie, Mo., and was grown in southeast Missouri, where rice has been a leading crop for generations. Missouri now ranks fourth among U.S. states in rice production. Cuba was once a leading export market for Missouri rice. The 20-ton shipment of Missouri rice arrived at the deep-water Port of Mariel last week and was sent to the people of Cuba by Martin Rice at no cost.
Martin Rice owners David, Mike and Tim Martin, members of the Missouri trade delegation, and Gov. Nixon distributed small bags of milled Martin Rice to Cuban attendees at today’s entrepreneurial forum to commemorate the rice shipment. They also participated in the March 2015 Missouri trade delegation that was the first U.S. state trade mission to Cuba after President Barack Obama announced plans to normalize relations.
“Cuba was once a leading export destination for Missouri rice and we believe the in-roads we’ve been making since our first visit here and meetings we’re now having with Cuban officials can help re-establish Cuba as a buyer of Missouri rice,” Mike Martin said. “Rice is a relatively high-value crop and we believe once the Cuban market opens up, Missouri farmers will plant and grow more rice to take advantage of this opportunity. We also look forward to the day when Cuban goods are readily available to consumers in Missouri and the U.S.”
Gov. Nixon is also meeting with leading members of the Cuban government officials in the areas of trade and agriculture. He and the delegation are scheduled to tour Cuba’s deep-water Port of Mariel Tuesday.
The Missouri delegation includes First Lady Georganne Nixon, Missouri Department of Agriculture Director Richard Fordyce and Missouri Department of Economic Development Director Mike Downing. Other members of the trade delegation include Dr. Carlos Vargas, President of Southeast Missouri State University; Gary Wheeler, of the Missouri Soybean Association; Silvia Hollis, of Mid-Continent Aircraft, Hayti; Thorstein Holt, of Holtec Gas Systems, Chesterfield; Brady Moses, of SatCommX, Lampe; and Jeffrey Fort, of MOM Brands Sales, St. Louis.
Travel costs for the Governor and First Lady are being covered by the Hawthorn Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting economic growth in Missouri; state taxpayer funds are not being used.
Gov. Nixon has made creating opportunities for Missouri businesses to sell their products around the globe and promoting Missouri as an ideal location for investment by foreign companies a top economic development priority for his administration. The Governor has led successful trade missions to China (October 2011); Brazil (April 2012); the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Republic of Korea (March 2013); Western Europe (June 2013, March 2015 and June 2015); Canada (March 2014 and August 2015); Columbia and Peru (February 2016); Panama (March 2016); and Israel (March 2016).
These trade missions have resulted in trade agreements to sell billions of dollars in Missouri goods to consumers overseas. Last year, Missouri exported more than $13.6 billion dollars in products around the globe, compared to just $9.52 billion in 2009 -- an increase of 43 percent.
In March 2015, Mrs. Nixon represented the State of Missouri in leading a trade mission to Cuba with members of the U.S. Agriculture Coalition for Cuba (USACC), including 95 current and former government officials, industry representatives, and agriculture leaders including two former U.S. Secretaries of Agriculture. It was the first official trade mission from the United States after President Obama announced the decision to normalize diplomatic relations with Cuba in December 2014. The Governor was unable to travel on that trade mission because of the funeral of State Auditor Thomas Schweich.