Many wheat growers could benefit from U.S-Cuba trade – except Desert Durum

Many wheat growers could benefit from U.S-Cuba trade – except Desert Durum

Desert Durum wheat growers in the low desert areas of southern California and Arizona are unlikely to benefit from an adopted U.S.-Cuba trade accord - in the short run. Arizona wheat leader David Sharp says that could change down the road if a new accord generated higher Cuban incomes.   

Two of the nation’s largest wheat organizations believe President Obama’s call for the U.S. to begin discussions to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba could be an export boon for many U.S. farmers.

Yet that is probably not the case for Desert Durum wheat growers in Arizona and southern California at least in the short term, says David Sharp, chairman of the Arizona Grain Research and Promotion Council.

“The Cubans strictly purchase imported hard red winter wheat to make bread and other products,” said Sharp, a Desert Durum wheat grower in southwestern Arizona.

“Most of the wheat grown in the low desert areas of Arizona and California’s Imperial Valley is Desert Durum,” he explained. “Most of this wheat is exported to Italy and other countries to make high-quality pasta.”

Many of Cuba’s residents are lower income citizens who buy basic food staples including breads made from hard red winter wheat. Most Cuban-used wheat is imported from Canada and the European Union.

Yet Sharp believes Cuba could become a Desert Durum importer down the road if a new U.S-Cuban accord could generate higher Cuban incomes.

“If more Cubans move into the middle class, they could become customers of higher-quality pasta grown in the Southwest,” said Sharp.

Meanwhile, hard red winter wheat growers in California’s San Joaquin Valley, the nation’s Midwest, the Dakotas, and other regions stand to benefit in the short term if a U.S.-Cuba accord is reached.

President Obama’s request generated accolades from U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).

In a statement, USW said, “We anticipate that these re-established trade relations will help open a market for U.S. wheat products in Cuba.”

USW Board Chairman Ray Motter of Brawley, Calif. echoed the message.

“U.S. wheat farmers welcome the potential for more open trade with Cuba,” Motter said.

NAWG President Paul Penner added, “U.S. wheat farmers are excited about the prospect of exporting more wheat to Cuba. NAWG has long supported strengthened trade relations with Cuba and see this as a historic step in that direction.”

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