Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Idaho's Governor Otter hopeful Cuba trade mission will lead to more sales of Idaho products

Idaho's News Channel 7

04/18/2007 06:31 PM MDT

By Areka Spencer

BOISE --- Governor Butch Otter returned from his trade mission to Cuba and already we're beginning to hear that some Idaho products will stock Cuban grocery shelves .

Before his trip Otter billed himself as Idaho’s “salesman” and wanted to get more homegrown products into that island nation.

While the governor says it's too soon to say “mission accomplished,” he also says it's a game of “wait and see.”

Gov. Otter is as proud an Idahoan as he is American. That's why he says, he and 34 delegates spent a week in Cuba vying for trade dollars.

“There was a great interest in most all the food products we took down with us, and there were some sales since we've been home that have been made,” said Otter.

Cuba remains under a stiff trade embargo, but the 2000 Trade Sanctions Reform Act does allow food and medicine into the communist nation and that's what the Idaho delegation wants to capitalize on.

“It’s ten times the size that Idaho is. Idaho is 1.4 million, so it's ten times the size of Idaho,” said Otter.

Cuba imports more than a billion dollars in agriculture products each year and 44 percent comes from the U.S. Idaho represents a small fraction of that figure.

“We’re at a bit of a disadvantage because of the distance and the cost of transportation,” said Otter.

For now, a Twin Falls company is the first beneficiary of the governor's trade mission. Independent Meats will ship $100,000 worth of pork to Cuba in a few months.

“They’re gonna try a container of it and I would suspect that if they like what they got, and I’m confident that Independent Meats in Twin Falls will give 'em the kind of quality that they're looking for, that there will be additional sales,” said Otter.

While only one company has walked away with a contract for now, Otter says time will tell how many other Idaho products are Cuba bound.

“I’ll be the first to tell you in two weeks it isn't measuring up to the kind of exciting volume and business activity that I’d hoped it would, I’ll be the first to tell you that in two weeks,” said Otter.

For the Twin Falls company this could be the beginning of a long-term relationship with Cuba.

Cuba imports more than 6,000 tons of pork from around the world each year.

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