FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Fresno Assemblyman Henry T. Perea is leading a delegation to Cuba next week in hopes of fostering a trade relationship. Their hope is to create a direct line of communication from Valley growers to Cuban customers.
For 53 years, a strict embargo has kept the United States and Cuba from doing business. So when the ban against trade and travel was recently lifted, Perea said he saw an opportunity for the Central Valley. "It turned out there was a huge interest in wanting to visit Cuba, establish relationships and learn how to export more agricultural products into the island," he said.
On Monday, Perea, other policymakers, farmers and representatives of the agricultural community are meeting with leaders in Cuba. Loren Booth, president of Booth Ranches in Orange Cove, is one of the 27 delegates. Her goal is to see how the oranges from her farm could do in the Cuban market. "Just a cursory sort of exploration of possibilities and what's available, and sort of what their expectations are of the United States and just to hear where they were and where they hope to be," said Booth.
Cuban leaders are showing interest in some Valley commodities. Early export favorites, Perea said, include dairy products, rice, any kind of tree nut, almonds and oranges. "If we can walk away from this trip with a better understanding of how to make our commodities in the Valley and in the state of California more competitive and attractive to Cubans, then I will consider that a success," said Perea. The trip won't cost taxpayers anything, he said, as they explore a possible foothold in Cuba.
But not all politicians in Washington agree with the travel and trade lift. President Barack Obama still faces vocal opposition from anti-Castro leaders in Congress.
Valley-led group heading to Cuba for trade relationship talks