BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Louisiana rice farmers are calling for the United States Congress to lift a trade embargo with Cuba in hopes to increase revenue.
A representative for the rice industry spoke about the impacts of the embargo Tuesday at the International Trade Commission meeting in Washington, DC, stating that Louisiana would be one of the biggest winners if the embargo is lifted.
"I am concerned about human rights abuses and the lack of a real democracy in Cuba, but the potential economic benefit of increased trade for South Louisiana's rice farmers is undeniable," said Congressman Charles Boustany, Jr., MD, R-La. "As we continue to explore the potential impacts of opening relations with Cuba this is very important to keep in mind."
The trade embargo between America and Cuba has been in place since the 1960s. Mike Salassi is a crop production economist with the LSU AG Center. He said back then Cuba was America's biggest customer for rice. That changed when Fidel Castro became prime minister of Cuba.
Cuba imports 60 to 80 percent of its rice. Meaning if Congress lifts the embargo, it would mean better business for Louisiana with rice is a big industry in the state.
"Given the proximity of Louisiana, a lot of that rice would probably be exported through New Orleans," said Salassi. "Even if all of the rice isn't produce in Louisiana it would be a benefit to the state and the region."
Salassi said that you can't put your finger on exactly how much money America would get if the embargo was lifted because the price of rice varies from year to year base on demand.
Six states including Louisiana account for 99 percent of all rice grown in America.