In the late 1980s Cuba was conducting in excess of 85 percent of its trade with the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe (Anuario Estadistico de Cuba 1989). Much of this trade was conducted under preferential arrangements that represented a significant source of economic assistance for the Cuban economy. The political transition that began within the Socialist countries of Eastern Europe in 1989, and the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 resulted in a sudden loss of all of this assistance and support, which had a devastating impact upon the Cuban economy. As a result, in part, of the loss of these preferential trading arrangements, in the early 1990s Cuba entered into a process of gradual economic transition in selected areas and sectors. There has been speculation that these economic reforms, combined with other factors, may lead to a restoration of diplomatic and commercial relations between Cuba and the United States.
Prior to 1960, Cuba and the United States had extensive patterns of trade and commercial relations. In fact, a report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1942 stated "with no other country does the United States have as close economic relations as with Cuba."(1) Because of the geographic proximity of Cuba to the United States an opening of trade and commercial relations between the two countries, whenever it may occur, is likely to have important implications for many different industry sectors both in the United States and in Cuba. This is particularly true for the agricultural sector as trade in agricultural products represented very nearly half of total U.S.-Cuban trade in the late 1950s (Foreign Agricultural Trade of the United States. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service, 1957, 1958 and 1959). Given the striking similarity between agricultural production patterns in Cuba and Florida (with a heavy emphasis on sugar, citrus, vegetables, tropical fruit, as well as marine fisheries products) this is an especially significant issue for Florida's agricultural and fisheries industries.
No one knows when the U.S. economic sanctions against Cuba may be lifted. Nevertheless, agricultural producers, processors and allied industry groups in Florida and throughout the United States, as well as in Cuba, are likely to face both challenges and opportunities when the United States and Cuba do resume trade and commercial relations. In an effort to provide timely research on this potentially important policy issue, in 1992, the International Agricultural Trade and Development Center in Department of Food and Resource Economics, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Florida initiated a comprehensive research project to study Cuba's agricultural and fisheries sectors. The project does not address political issues such as whether commercial relations between the United States and Cuba should be resumed. Rather, the research is designed to provide objective and current information on the agricultural and fisheries sectors in Cuba and analysis of the potential implications of a resumption of trade and commercial relations between the United States and Cuba on these sectors in both countries for Federal and State legislators, government agencies, agricultural industry associations, private firms, consumer groups and other interested parties to draw upon for discussion and debate if and when the issue may arise.
Beginning in 1994, and with the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, project research was conducted via a program of active collaboration with the University of Havana's Center for Research on the International Economy (Centro de Investigaciones de Economía Internacional, or CIEI). The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service also has provided financial support for domestic costs associated with the project. The support of these organizations has been pivotally important to the success of this project and is hereby very gratefully acknowledged.
To date this joint research effort has resulted in the publication of more than fifty research reports, papers and articles. Furthermore, project team members have made dozens of presentations based on the research at industry and professional meetings throughout the United States and in countries across three continents. Presentations have included invited Congressional testimony as well as testimony before the U.S. International Trade Commission.
In the summer of 1999, the project received the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Award for Superior Service for "outstanding service to United States and Florida agriculture for research on the economic challenges and opportunities associated with a resumption of trade with Cuba." The award is the highest recognition bestowed by USDA and was presented by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman.
This website is intended to make the results of this extensive collaborative research effort more readily available to those interested in learning more about the potential challenges and opportunities which may arise from a resumption of trade and commercial relations between the United States and Cuba, whenever it may occur. We hope that you find the site useful.