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December 21, 2004   Email to Friend 

Jeff Helms
(334) 613-4212
December 21, 2004

MONTGOMERY, Ala.-- Agriculture and Industries Commissioner Ron Sparks announced today that trade negotiations between Alabama agribusiness leaders and Cuban trade officials have resulted in approximately $18 million in new contracts for Alabama and Alabama sourced products.

Agreements were made to purchase nearly $9 million in poultry products, over $10 million in transmission poles, with negotiations ongoing for additional lumber sales, plus several containers of snack foods.

"Clearly, the results from this trip show how Alabama profits from exporting to Cuba," said Sparks. Sparks has focused attention on increasing the growth of Alabama exports to Cuba because it had previously been an underutilized market. Since 2002, Alabama has increased sales of products such as poultry, soybeans, and timber to Cuba to $15 million in 2004 in direct cash sales, which equates to approximately $50 million annually in economic impact for the state. The estimated annual economic impact of the new contracts negotiated last week for local products could alone be as much as $60 million.

"Alabama cannot afford to ignore this growing market. We have worked hard to establish trade relations that can truly make a significant difference to the people here, and we need to continue to nurture that relationship for the sake of our farmers, producers, and workers," Sparks continued.

During the three day conference, agribusiness leaders were able to negotiate directly with Pedro Alvarez, chairman and CEO of ALIMPORT. Alvarez expressed appreciation for the food products imported from Alabama businesses and reassured Sparks that Cuba would double the number of purchases from Alabama in the near future. Trade between Cuba and Alabama businesses is a continual process.

"Trade with Cuba offers an excellent opportunity to expand the market for Alabama poultry, beef, timber and other commodities produced in our state," said Mike Kilgore, executive director of the Alabama Farmers Federation. "I was impressed with the high regard Cuban trade officials hold for our state and specifically the agricultural products we produce." The delegation included legislators from districts that have agricultural industries that have shown interest in trade with Cuba.

"As part of the delegation that visited Cuba last year, I can see this year that Alabama's ties to Cuba have only grown stronger. Commissioner Sparks has done an excellent job of building trade relations with Cuba, and this is good news for Alabamians," stated Senator Lowell Barron. "We again signed contracts for the sale of poultry and various agriculture commodities to Cuba. Poultry is a leading farm product in my area, and expanding markets for our agricultural producers means not only putting food on the tables of Cuban families, it helps put food on the table for Alabama's families."

The United States Department of Commerce provides the license that allows individual businesses to export products to Cuba. The process to obtain a license can take as long as two months, after which the products may be shipped from the Port of Mobile. The proactive leadership of the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and the Alabama State Port Authority in exports has also secured approximately $50 million worth of regional products to be shipped through the Port of Mobile.

Below is a summary of the negotiations in Cuba.

Highlights from Cuba Trade Conference * 8500 transmission poles sourced from Alabama companies valued at over 10,000,000 dollars (similar to telephone poles)

* Over 5000 tons Alabama-raised poultry arrived in Cuba for unloading during the trip

* Contracts were signed for future sales of approximately 10,800 metric tons of poultry that will predominately be sourced from Alabama poultry producers

* Poultry contracts valued over $8,000,000

* Alabama based traders representing Alabama based snack food companies negotiated the sale of several containers of snack food products

* Alabama lumber company officials negotiated the sales of building materials

* The introduction of many Alabama products to the Cuban buyers for tests and compatibility in the Cuban market

For more information, please contact Dr. John Gamble or John Curry Key at 334-240-7224.

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