Agri-Food
Past, Present and Future Report
Cuba

March 2012

The Government of Canada has prepared this report based on primary and secondary sources of information. Readers should take note that the Government of Canada does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information contained in this report, nor does it necessarily endorse the organizations listed herein. Readers should independently verify the accuracy and reliability of the information. This report is intended as a concise overview of the market for those interested in its potential and is not intended to provide in-depth analysis which may be required by the individual exporter. Although every effort has been made to ensure that the information is correct, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada assumes no responsibility for its accuracy, reliability, or for any decisions arising from the information contained herein.

Please address any comments or suggestions you have on this report to: suggestions@agr.gc.ca


Executive Summary

  • Canada is an important partner to Cuba, providing a large market for Cuban exports and being a major source of tourism dollars in the country.
  • Tourism is a key industry for the Cuban economy, and provides opportunities for supplying agri-food products to hotels and restaurants.
  • Cuba imports approximately 80% of its food needs in order to meet the domestic demands of Cuba's 11.2 million population and tourism industry.
  • Total bilateral trade between Canada and Cuba in 2010 was $1 billion.
  • Total Canadian exports to Cuba in 2010 were $390 million, while agri-food exports totalled $105 million.
  • Top agri-food exports from Canada to Cuba include wheat and meslin, peas that are dried and shelled, frozen bovine cuts, potato seed and milk powder.

Overview

The Republic of Cuba is a Caribbean country with a population of about 11.2 million people, of which 75% live in an urban setting. Cuba's economy of US$71 billion functions under a very centralized system of government. Despite some potential challenges facing exporters to this market, Canada remains a very significant trade partner for Cuba; Canada is Cuba's dominant source of tourism dollars and Cuba's third largest trading partner.


Canada - Cuba Relations

Canada is one of the only two countries in the Western hemisphere to not break relations with Cuba following the Cuban revolution of 1959. As Cuba's politics and philosophies often play an equally large part in their foreign trade policies, this situation has created opportunity for Canada in bilateral trade.

With an established and stable trade relationship, Canada is an important partner to Cuba, being both a large market for Cuban exports and a major source of tourism dollars – their foremost economic resource. Canada provides Cuba with a significant number of tourist arrivals every year, as Cuba is the fifth most popular overseas destination for Canadians. The impact of the dollars spent by Canadians in all-inclusive resorts in Cuba cannot be overestimated. Canada is also one of Cuba's leading export markets, with Canada importing $652.6 million in 2010, 19.5% of Cuba's total exports.

Canada and Cuba share partnership in multiple organizations that enhance their trade relationship. Some of these organizations include the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), World Customs Organization (WCO), World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Canada-Cuba Bilateral Trade 2010
Cuba Total Trade US$12.7 billion
Exports US$3.1 billion
Imports US$9.6 billion
Trade balance (US$6.5 billion)
Canada-Cuba Trade $1.0 billion
Exports $390.3 million
Imports $652.6 million
Trade balance ($262.3 million)
Canada-Cuba Ag Trade $114.6 million
Exports $105.6 million
Imports $8.9 million
Trade balance $96.7 million
  • Total bilateral trade between Canada and Cuba in 2010 was $1 billion.
  • Cuba is Canada's 40th largest export market, while Cuba is Canada's 49th largest source of imports.
  • Canadian exports of goods to Cuba declined a notable 60% in 2009; however, in 2010 they began to recover with growth of 22.8%.
  • In 2010, top Canadian exports to Cuba included: machinery (24.3% of exports), cereals (13.7%), inorganic chemicals and rare earth metals (8.4%), vegetables (7%) and electrical machinery (5.1%).
  • The top reported Cuban exports to Canada are: copper, beverages, tobacco, fish, and aluminum.

Agricultural Trade

Cuba's agriculture sector has traditionally been vital to the economy, with notable products such as sugar, tobacco, citrus products, and tropical fruits. However, Cuba's agriculture sector faces several challenges, including lack of technology and investment needed to significantly modernize production. Accordingly, Cuba imports approximately 80% of its food requirements, worth roughly US$1.5 billion annually. Imports are largely comprised of wheat, corn, powdered milk, flour, and soybean oil, which account for nearly 75% of Cuba's food bill (MercoPress, 2011). Between the years 2000 and 2006 Cuba's agricultural imports almost doubled. Cuba recently removed the restriction that did not allow farmers to directly sell their agri-food production to resorts, which is expected to have some impact on food imports to the island.

The Cuban government has been trying to boost agricultural production in order to decrease bulk food imports. While this has seen some success, with rice, dried beans and milk production increasing notably in 2009, the need for food imports is expected to remain strong in 2011. In 2011, Cuba's food import bill is expected to rise 25% from original estimates, due in part to domestic demand for grain. Cuba generally imports approximately 60% of its rice, and may need to import 600,000 tons to meet demand in 2011 (UPI, 2011).

Cuba's tourism industry, as a large contributor to their overall economy, has a heavy influence on the country's agricultural imports. Cuba had more than 2.5 million international tourist arrivals in 2010, and as tourism increases, the hospitality industry will also inevitably need to increase their imports in order to sustain demand. In 2010, international tourist arrivals increased 4.2% from 2009.

Cuba imports roughly 80% of its food requirements. The Empresa Cubana Importadora de Alimentos (ALIMPORT) is responsible for the importation of roughly 80-90% of all food into Cuba as they are the sole approved importer for certain products such as: wheat, fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. ALIMPORT is a state corporation and its largest shareholder is the Ministry of Foreign Trade. This entity principally purchases for its pesos nacionales stores (and in support of the Cuban ration booklet), but does, however, have some CUC (Cuban Convertible Peso) stores as well. Moreover, ALIMPORT is the supplier to many of the hard currency retail shops found throughout Cuba. ALIMPORT has four divisions (cereals, meats and dairy, grains, hard currency shop). In addition to this, they import products with which they have legal exclusivity (such as wheat or fresh fruit) on behalf of Cuban entities active in the crucial tourism sector.

Cuba's tourist industry is almost exclusively managed through companies falling under the following three Government entities: The Cuban Ministry of Tourism (MINTUR), the Cuban Ministry of the Armed Forces (MINFAR) and Habaguanex which is the entity responsible for supplying the hotels and tourist facilities located in Havana City. The MINTUR enterprise responsible for agricultural imports is the Comercializadora ITH (simply referred to as ITH). Gaviota is the MINFAR tourist operator and its agricultural importer is A.T. Comercial. Habaguanex is also able to import certain agricultural products directly. Should you require more information on these agencies; please contact the Canadian Embassy in Cuba.

Canada-Cuba agricultural trade is largely unbalanced, with Canada consistently holding a significant trade balance. In 2010, Canada possessed a notable agricultural trade balance of $96.6 million with Cuba. Generally, Canada's total agricultural trade with Cuba has been increasing over the past five years, from $66.7 million in 2006 to $114.6 million in 2010. However, after sharp growth in 2008, Canada suffered a significant a drop in its exports to Cuba in 2009, which was then followed by growth of 19% in 2010.

Trade: Description of this image follows.
Description

Canada's Agri-Food Trade with Cuba: Domestic Exports 102,698,407(2000) 125,446,194(2001) 81,691,254(2002) 43,456,541(2003) 69,938,234(2004) 84,092,421(2005) 58,906,863(2006) 84,340,203(2007) 180,620,285(2008) 89,894,238(2009) 105,615,183(2010) - Imports 27,008,320(2000) 40,632,762(2001) 33,626,721(2002) 14,637,537(2003) 7,252,886(2004) 7,502,821(2005) 7,866,645(2006) 8,237,967(2007) 6,113,485(2008) 6,392,914(2009) 8,947,181(2010)

Canada's Top 5 Agricultural Exports to Cuba (2010)
Wheat nes and meslin $50.7 million
Peas, dried, shelled $20.5 million
Bovine cuts, boneless, frozen $6.0 million
Potato seed, fresh or chilled $4.6 million
Milk powder (not exceeding 1.5% fat) $3.8 million
  • Canada's agri-food exports to Cuba have fluctuated over the past decade. After dips in 2003 and 2006, exports grew by 43% in 2007 and then more than doubled in 2008, from $84.3 million in 2007 to $180.6 million in 2008.
  • This abnormally high growth was mainly due to large increases in dried, shelled peas, and wheat and meslin exports.
  • After a drop in 2009, they returned to more typical export values, $89.9 million, agri-food exports increased again in 2010 with growth of 17.5%. In 2009, peas also returned to more typical export values, while wheat and meslin exports decreased, but still remained significantly higher than 2007 levels.
  • Top agri-food exports from Canada to Cuba in 2010 included wheat and meslin, accounting for nearly half of all agri-food exports (48%), followed by dried, shelled peas (19.4%), boneless and frozen bovine cuts (5.7%), potato seed (4.3%), and milk powder (3.6%).
  • Of Canada's largest agri-food exports, products which helped to lead growth in 2010 included peas (108% growth), boneless bovine cuts (330%), potato seed (145%), milk powder (195%), bone-in bovine cuts (1,248%), cured swine bellies (206%), and frozen potatoes (898%).
  • Canada's agri-food imports from Cuba totalled $8.9 million in 2010; up from nearly $6.4 million in 2009.
  • Top agri-food imports from Cuba in 2010 included rum and tafia, which accounted for more than half of agri-food imports (53.4%), cigars, cheroots and cigarillos (39.8%), non-roasted coffee (1.5%), undenatured ethyl alcohol (1.4%) and fresh or chilled vegetables (0.9%).
Exports: Description of this image follows.
Description

Canada's Top 5 Agri-Food Exports to Cuba (HS6) - Millions $- Wheat nes and meslin 24,297,168(2000) 23,134,454(2001) 4,887,993(2002) 0(2003) 2,250,161(2004) 33,402,719(2005) 18,621,893(2006) 30,854,123(2007) 72,897,168(2008) 47,953,975(2009) 50,659,478(2010) - Peas dried, shelled 9,556,833(2000) 20,105,517(2001) 26,412,920(2002) 9,266,197(2003) 25,781,532(2004) 7,987,019(2005) 9,461,302(2006) 21,771,323(2007) 62,013,248(2008) 9,839,770(2009) 20,510,643(2010) - Bovine cuts boneless, frozen 903,695(2000) 2,368,684(2001) 1,571,822(2002) 752,964(2003) 0(2004) 14,882(2005) 516,836(2006) 226,748(2007) 6,837,134(2008) 1,404,698(2009) 6,039,885(2010) - Potato seed, fresh or chilled 2,175,177(2000) 1,140,623(2001) 0(2002) 3,406,387(2003) 3,744,796(2004) 3,679,233(2005) 1,317,473(2006) 226,645(2007) 1,868,071(2008) 1,867,140(2009) 4,581,965(2010) - Milk powder 9,933,427(2000) 9,198,535(2001) 4,992,075(2002) 8,628,186(2003) 5,971,432(2004) 7,927,284(2005) 2,535,662(2006) 8,153,136(2007) 12,656,364(2008) 1,302,775(2009) 3,843,624(2010)

Canada's Top 5 Agricultural Imports from Cuba (2010)
Rum and tafia $4.8 million
Cigars, cheroots and cigarillos, containing tobacco $3.6 million
Coffee, not roasted, not decaffeinated $136,117
Undenatured ethyl alcohol $122,380
Vegetables, fresh or chilled $83,144

Complete statistical summary available at the Agri-Food Trade Service's Canadian Trade Data by Country.


Economy

Cuba has an economy of approximately US$71 billion, where tourism is a key sector and the country's primary source of income. In 2010, Cuba ranked as having the 9th most international tourist arrivals in the Americas (UNWTO, 2011). However, as a communist country, the federal government heavily regulates the economy. Other important industries in Cuba's economy are sugar, petroleum, tobacco, construction, nickel and steel. Cuba's education is free at all levels, which has led to one of the world's highest literacy rates and also fuelled strong health and biotechnology sectors. Cuba ranks third globally for nickel reserves (8% of the world total) and has significant offshore oil deposits. Cuba is also known for its informal sector, or black market, which is estimated to be as high as 40% of total economic activity.

Over the past two decades, Cuba's economy has struggled with a number of issues, both economic and natural.  However, recent government actions have shown promise, and may provide a window into what may be the economic future of Cuba.  Economic reforms are evolving and changes in key areas, such as reductions in the size of the public workforce and growing opportunities in the private sector and self-employment, may mean a China-like approach to a government controlled economy with a more consumer-oriented focus. As Cuba remains a communist country, these changes will happen slowly. However, if China is any indicator, these moves may show promise for a more market-oriented economy in the future. China has also become Cuba's top creditor.

Despite progress, Cuba's economy and foreign trade are still influenced by seemingly conflicting factors. Due to economic difficulties, convenience and price factor heavily in trade consideration, but the country's strong political and philosophical standpoints add an additional challenge in sourcing imports.  Although its location in the Caribbean presents potential trade opportunities with some of the approximately twenty other countries located in this region, Cuba does surprisingly little trade with these nations of close proximity. Cuba's location is also an advantage for Canadian foreign trade as Canada is closer in proximity to Cuba than both China and Spain, which are Cuba's second and third leading sources of imports.

In addition, Cuba's less than favourable relationship with the US, highlighted by a U.S. embargo on Cuba continues to influence foreign trade. However, in recent years U.S. policies toward Cuba have begun to soften and the Organization of American States (OAS) voted to lift the 47-year-long suspension on Cuba in 2009.

In 1995, the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC) was introduced for the purpose of converting foreign money (most notably the U.S. dollar, on which its value is par), and encouraging international business and the tourism industry. As a country dependant on tourism and whose convertible currency is on par with the American dollar, the Cuban economy is very vulnerable to external shocks. Damage from hurricanes has also impacted Cuba's economy in past years, most notably the tourist and agriculture sectors, and may cause Cuba to increasingly import agricultural products to meet domestic demand.

Gross Domestic Product (2010)
Nominal GDP US$71.3 billion
GDP real growth 7.1% (2005-09 avg.)
1.5% (2010)
1.6% (2011)
GDP/capita US$5,130
GDP/capita (PPP) US$10,150

Source: EDC, EIU ViewsWire, CIA World Factbook

Current:

  • Cuba has a nominal GDP rate of US$71.3 billion (Export Development Canada (EDC)).
  • The inflation rate has steadily decreased, from 2.5% in 2003 to 2.0% in 2008, and to an even lower rate of 0.7% in 2010.
  • Cuba's currency is the Cuban Peso and Convertible Peso.
  • GDP growth peaked in 2006; however, it has been slightly declining since then. Real GDP growth of 1.5% occurred in 2010; significantly lower than the average of 7.1% from 2005 to 2009.
  • Services comprise the majority of GDP (74.2%), while industry makes up 21.8% of GDP and agriculture 4%.
  • Total exports in 2010 were $3.1 billion, with a compound annual growth rate of 16.5%; significantly higher than the 2005-2009 average rate of 4.3%.
  • Total imports in 2010 were $9.6 billion, with a compound annual growth rate of 13.7%, which is also an increase from the average rate of 9.7% from 2005-2009.

Forecast:

  • EDC predicts a real GDP growth rate of 3.6% for 2011, followed by slightly stronger growth of 4% in 2012.
  • In the longer-term, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) forecasts real GDP growth to peak at 4.3% in 2013 and then decrease slightly to 3.9% in 2015.
  • Inflation is predicted to notably increase in the future, with a rate of 5.4% in 2011, followed by a slightly lower rate of 4.9% in 2012.
  • According to EDC, Cuba's economic prospects are expected to remain constrained due to continuing structural problems, credit access and U.S. economic sanctions. However, the outlook for certain sectors is improving, and would considerably grow in the event of improved U.S.-Cuban relations.
  • Exports are expected to have compound annual growth of 13.3% in 2011, and then notably decline 1.5% in 2012. Imports, on the other hand, are expected to grow more moderately in 2011 at 5.3%, and then drop to a slower growth of 2.7% in 2012.
  • The evolution of economic activity from state to private sector is expected to have a number of economic benefits; increasing disposable incomes, and boosting fiscal income and productivity. Accordingly, private consumption is expected to increase from 2012-15. At the same time, higher competition in the market, along with increasing unemployment, is expected to constrain future growth (EIU).

Consumer Market

There are few Cubans with the means to purchase high value agricultural products. Therefore, for suppliers of these high end agricultural products, the Cuban consumer market is, for all intensive purposes, the country's 2.5 million annual tourists. For this reason Cuba is a very interesting market for Canadian producers, as roughly one million of Cuba's tourists are actually Canadians.

The following are demographic highlights for Cuba:

  • Cuba has a population of 11.24 million, which is expected to decline very slightly to 11.22 million in 2015, due to low and falling birth and death rates, combined with emigration.
  • The median age is 38.4 years old with a life expectancy of 77.7 years old.
  • Over 70% of the Cuban population is between 15 and 64 years old. However, the country is facing a rapidly ageing population, with an old-age dependency ratio of 30% expected by 2015.
  • Despite ageing consumers, the young population entering the work force should keep the working age population approximately the same.
  • Cuba has one of the highest literacy rates in the world, with 99.8% of the population over 15 years old literate, while the average number of years in education from primary to tertiary is 18. This focus on education ranks Cuba second in the world for percentage of GDP spent on education (13.6%).
  • The rate of urbanisation is fairly stable with approximately 75% of the population urbanized, and is expected to remain unchanged in the future. Havana, the capital city, holds a population of 2.14 million.
Population Demographics 2011 est.
Population 11.24 million
Age (% of population) 0-14 years 17.3%
Age (% of population) 15-64 years 71.1%
Age (% of population) 65 years and over 11.7%
Median Age 38.4 years
Population Growth -0.1 %

Source: CIA World Factbook, EIU ViewsWire

Cuba's two main consumer markets are the federal government, which organizes most of the trade negotiations for the country, and the Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional (HRI) sector. A majority of the land and businesses are owned by the government and whatever private enterprises exist are heavily taxed; often paying large amounts of revenue or product to the government for redistribution/sale. The government often imports additional foodstuffs for its food rationing program, due to the fact that national agricultural production is rarely sufficient to support the rationing program.

As noted, government enterprises are often also responsible for importing goods that are sold to both government and non-government run food stores. It is often necessary for Cuban people to purchase food from food stores as the rationing program can generally only afford to provide the average citizen with about 2/3 of his or her daily nutrition. The government run food stores are reasonably priced but are of limited variety and often lower quality. Non-government run food stores have a larger variety, however, they often deal only with CUCs, as opposed to the national currency, which is much harder for Cubans to obtain and more expensive. CUCs, which are most commonly acquired through remittances from family overseas, by receiving tips from tourists, or working for foreign firms represent an important source of purchasing power for Cuban consumers. There is also a considerable black market in Cuba which sells items that are illegal to sell or purchase outside of government systems, often because of their scarcity, such as meat, milk or potatoes. Difficult economic times have recently led to an increasing focus of finding the lowest prices; however, as conditions improve greater consideration to the quality of products is also expected.

As Cuba's leading source of income, it is important that the HRI sector is properly maintained. Some HRIs conduct private business with foreign companies; however, many continue to buy imports that the government has acquired on their behalf. Most government imports for food stores and rationing continue to be less costly items, however, better quality items are also obtained for the HRIs.


Competitors

Cuba's Trade Situation with the U.S.

The U.S. has held an embargo on Cuba since 1962 as a result of political differences that stemmed from the rise of Cuba's communist regime. However, under humanitarian aid, the U.S. does allow for agricultural products to be exported Cuba, making the U.S. the top agri-food source for Cuba, supplying an estimated 25-30% of Cuba's food and agricultural imports. Under current U.S. regulations, these exports must be on a cash basis meaning that payment precedes shipment and no U.S. credit can be offered. Therefore, while some trade exists between the U.S. and Cuba, the embargo still plays a considerable role in Cuba's foreign trade and limits Cuba's willingness to increase its number of imports.

In 2008, the U.S. supplied an estimated 27% of imports, which was a decrease from 29% in 2007. However, in 2010, U.S. food and agricultural product exports to Cuba decreased by 31%. Among several reasons for this reduction are the continuing/growing import relationships that Cuba has with other countries, such as Brazil, Argentina, Vietnam, Mexico, Canada, Russia, Iran, and France, among others. In 2010, the largest agricultural exports from the U.S. to Cuba included frozen poultry (27% of exports), corn (26%), soybeans (11%), soybean oil (7%), and brewing/distilling dregs (6%). Wheat came in sixth accounting for 5%, followed by frozen pork at 4% (U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council).

The U.S. is close to Cuba in proximity, about 150 km from the coast of Florida, making shipping costs cheap and convenience levels high. It would be logistically easy for Cuba to increase their number of imports; however, their politics and philosophies provide barriers. However, recent softening of some U.S. policies may potentially result in changes in the future. Cuba continues to be hesitant to heavily rely on any one country (however, Venezuela's importance to Cuba has grown significantly in recent years), due to crises that have occurred from abundant reliance on countries in the past, most notably the Soviet Union from the 1960s to the 1980s. This cognizance of past problems also plays a role in their reluctance to increase American imports to the country.

Canadian exporters are advised to establish strong relations and to put efforts into maintaining these relationships to ensure that any end or modification to the embargo does not cost Canadians market share. It may come to pass that any goodwill established by Canadian support of Cuba over the past 50 years will be quickly replaced by competition from U.S. producers. Therefore, now is a most opportune time to establish a foothold in the market, for interested Canadian companies. 

Competitors in the Cuban Import Market

Cuba does regular trade with numerous countries worldwide, with many factors playing a role in the country's trade including necessity, price, politics, and philosophy. According to the CIA World Factbook, Cuba's largest import partners in 2009 included Venezuela, accounting for 32.2% of imports, China (12.8%), Spain (8.5%), and the U.S. (7%). Cuba's largest export partners in 2009 included China, receiving 23% of Cuba's exports, Canada (19.5%), Venezuela (10.4%), Spain (6.5%), and Netherlands (4.4%).

Venezuela is the number one source for Cuban imports and plays an important role in the Cuban economy. Venezuela and Cuba share common political ground and a bilateral trade agreement which is supported by their politics and close geographic proximity. The countries also have a history of sharing the services of Cuba's health care professionals in exchange for Venezuelan oil subsidies. A substantial amount of Venezuela's exports to Cuba are oil. While overall exports from Venezuela to Cuba grew by 10.2% in 2010, agri-food exports grew by 171.1%. Only a relatively small portion, 6.2%, of Venezuela's exports to Cuba is comprised of agri-food products.

China, Cuba's second largest import source and largest export destination, shares some similar political beliefs and philosophies, which have largely influenced their close relationship. The two countries have signed a bilateral agreement and, in 2006, China's exports to Cuba nearly doubled to $1.4 billion. However, in recent years China's overall exports to Cuba have declined; shrinking by 40% in 2010, while agri-food exports decreased by 83.1%. China's agri-food exports to Cuba accounted for just over 1% of the country's total exports to Cuba.


Access Issues

Cuba and Canada have strong bilateral trade relations and Canada remains one of Cuba's important sources of imports. Canada's resources, proximity and politics have created strong potential for consistent and growing exports to Cuba. Canadian exporters are encouraged to develop market entry strategies that include selling products with competitive local pricing and consistent trade and communication with established Cuban importers. Currently, much of Canada's agricultural trade with Cuba takes place via trading houses.

Canadian exporters are encouraged to register with the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service to gain easy access to Canada's embassies and posts abroad. Canadian exporters are also encouraged to use the services of EDC and DFAIT: both of which offer trade information, and financial and risk management services to Canadian exporters.

According to the Trade Commissioner, Cuban importers only deal with companies who are well established, have a proven track record (ideally at least five years), and some experience in foreign markets. Accordingly, new companies or individual entrepreneurs will not be considered seriously by importers.

The private sector in Cuba remains limited; therefore, contracts and other types of agreements must generally be negotiated through government enterprises. For further information on Cuba's trade and tariffs, visit the WTO's Member Information page on Cuba.

Cuba's Ministry of Agriculture regulates animal and animal product imports, as well as well as plant and plant product imports, while the Cuban Ministry of Health regulates consumer-ready food imports (USDA, 2010). Cuba's customs duties are based on the system classification of the Customs Cooperation Council Nomenclature (CCCN), with preferential rates applied to imports that are sourced from countries that have trade agreements with Cuba. Most favoured nations (MFN), which include WTO members and countries with bilateral agreements, generally receive an average duty of 10.7% (USDA, 2010). Cuba uses the harmonized system (HS) nomenclature up to an 8-digit level. Contact information for the custom authority in Cuba, the Chief of General Customs, is provided below (Australian Trade Commission, 2011).

Chief of General Customs
Aduana General de la Republica
Avenida Independencia No. 63
e/Bruzon y Lugareno
La Habana
Tel: +53 7 790 800

Further information on Cuba's tariffs can be found within the International Customs Journal of the International Customs Tariffs Bureau.

Business Travel Tips
  • Canadian citizens must have a visa in order to enter Cuba. If visiting for business, a business visa should be obtained, which costs $112 per person. It is advised that the Cuban Embassy in Ottawa or the consulates in Montreal or Toronto be contacted regarding this matter.
  • There are two Cuban currencies: the Cuban peso (Cu$) and the Cuban Convertible peso (CUC). The Cuban peso is the local currency, while the CUC is used for converting from other international currencies, conducting international business, and spending within the tourism industry. The local currency is worth substantially less than the CUC, so it is important to ensure that you are receiving the right amount of change after each transaction.
  • The use of the U.S. dollar currency has been banned in Cuba since 2004. Travellers to Cuba are advised to travel without U.S. dollars because there is a 10% surcharge when exchanging them to pesos.
  • ATM machines outside of Havana are limited, so it is important to check with your bank to ensure that your ATM card will work in Cuba. Debit cards are not accepted for transactions throughout the rest of the country.
  • Use of credit cards and travellers checks may also be limited and often these are only accepted at large hotels. If they are issued by American banks, they are not accepted anywhere; American Express is no exception.
  • Try to avoid packing valuables in checked luggage as theft may occur while handling baggage at the airport or during taxi transportation.
  • It is required that travellers in Cuba carry photographic identification with them at all times.
  • Check with your cell phone provider to ensure that your cell phone will work in Cuba as coverage with some companies may be limited.
  • The official language in Cuba is Spanish. Some business and tourist sectors do speak English, however, if needed; interpreters and translators are available from the Cuban Chamber of Commerce at an extra cost.
  • Driving in Cuba is not recommended as Cuban law criminalizes traffic accidents and imprisonment is a possibility.
  • Cubans' sensitivities, pride, history, and culture are very important to recognize while doing business in Cuba. Cubans are very hospitable, and appreciate polite and respectful attitudes as a prerequisite for successful business.
  • Being responsive to letters, faxes and calls is also important to Cuban businesspeople and a lack of responsiveness will often lead them to search for business elsewhere.

For additional information regarding travel to Cuba, or to prepare and be successful for business in Cuba, please consult Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada's travel report.

For additional information on market access and doing business in Cuba, visit:
Government of Canada's Doing Business with Cuba portal
Virtual Trade Commissioner's Tips for Business Travellers – Cuba


Agriculture Sector & Policies

Agriculture in Cuba faces several challenges including inefficiencies in land ownership and use. However, decentralization of the state-run agriculture sector began in 2009, which resulted in government leasing of state land, with a purpose to increase efficiency and allow for more private farming activities to boost production. According to the EIU, employment in the agriculture sector is expected to remain relatively steady in the coming year, due to increasing productivity as well as new policies highlighting intensive agricultural land use. There is also emphasis on increasing land use surrounding towns.

Cuba's agriculture sector contributed an estimated 4% of GDP in 2010, but comprises 20% of Cuba's 5.1 million labour force. Of the 109,820 square kilometers of land that the island occupies, 27.6% is arable land and 6.5% is permanent crops. Approximately 8,700 square kilometers of land is irrigated (CIA World Factbook, 2011).

The weather conditions in Cuba are highly unpredictable and have a drastic effect on Cuba's agriculture sector. In the past, severe drought has led to a large decrease in agricultural production, while hurricanes have also caused significant damage. Natural disasters such as these can have a significant effect on Cuba's agricultural sector and periodically necessitate the need for Cuba to increase their agricultural imports, sometimes substantially.

Main agriculture products include sugar, tobacco, citrus, coffee, rice, potatoes and beans, as well as livestock. Cuba has been working to boost production, and in 2009 saw notable increases in rice (44.6% growth), dried beans (9.6%), and milk (10.8%) (Reuters, 2010). Although there are approximately twenty other countries that occupy the Caribbean, Cuba does minimal trade with all of them, most likely due to their similar environments and production. With help from foreign experts, such as Canada, the Cuban government is also experimenting with new crops, such as soybean. While sugar remains a key sector and agricultural product, its position as a leading component of Cuba's economy has changed over the years as production has significantly decreased. Of the 156 state-run sugar mills, 71 have been shut down by the government.

The Cuban government has concentrated on developing urban agriculture, which stemmed from the need to increase food supplies and self-sufficiency in the country. While land intensive agriculture has struggled in rural areas, Cuba's large urban population has become increasingly adept and dependant on urban gardens. These gardens, as well as small private farms, have begun producing significant numbers of fruits and vegetables. In fact, the urban gardens, or organopónicos, in Havana produce enough fruits and vegetables to meet 90% of the city's needs.

Over the past several years, the government has taken actions to advance Cuban policies and their economy, and announced an intention to increasingly lend out government land to private farmers, as well as accept more foreign aid and subsidization. Agricultural production in Cuba is collected in certain portions from farmers by the government, and is sold or redistributed throughout the country as food rationing. However, Cuba recently removed the restriction that prevented farmers from directly selling their agri-food production to resorts, which is expected to have some impact on food production (and food imports in support of the Hotel Restaurant and Institution (HRI) sector).

Lastly, the actions of the U.S. Government may also have an impact on Cuban agriculture, as U.S. administration policies may influence Cuba's foreign trade decisions.


Contact Information

The Canadian Embassy in Cuba

Address: Calle 30, No. 518 esquina a 7ma, Miramar, La Habana, 11300, Cuba
Telephone: (53-7) 204-2516/2517/2527
Fax: (53-7) 204-2044
E-Mail: havan-td@international.gc.ca
Website: www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca/cu
Other URL: www.canadainternational.gc.ca/cuba

Ms. Laura Dalby
Second Secretary (Commercial)
Trade Commissioner
Agricultural Technology and Equipment, Agriculture, Food and Beverages, Economic and Trade Policy, Fish and Seafood Products, Forest Industries, Market Access
Email: laura.dalby@international.gc.ca


Key Resources

  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. "Agri-Food Past, Present & Future Report Cuba." Agri-Food Trade Service. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, March 2009.
  • Ajl, Max. "Eat Local: Cuba's Urban Gardens Raise Food on Zero Emissions." Inside Climate News. Inside Climate News Group, 27 January 2009.
  • Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs. "Background Note: Cuba." U.S. Department of State - Diplomacy in Action. The Office of Electronic Information, Bureau of Public Affairs, 28 April 2011.
  • Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). "The World Factbook: Cuba." Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). N.p., 23 August 2011.
  • "Cuba admits food imports bill is up 25% and “miracles are running out”." MercoPress South Atlantic News Agency. N.p., 16 April 2011.
  • "Cuba - Doing Business." Australian Government - Austrade. Australian Government - Australian Trade Commission, 4 May 2011.
  • "Cuba Trade." Global Trade Atlas. Global Trade Information Services, Inc., 2011.
  • Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). "Cuba: 5-year forecast table." ViewsWire. Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), 5 August 2011.
  • - - -. "Cuba economy: Demographic profile." ViewsWire. Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), June 2011.
  • Euromonitor International. "Cuba: Country Factfile." Passport. Euromonitor International, 2011.
  • Export Development Canada (EDC). "Cuba - Economics." Export Development Canada (EDC). N.p., August 2011.
  • Frank, Marc. “Cuba moves to decentralize state-run agriculture.” Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 24 March 2008.
  • Frank, Marc. "Cuban efforts to reduce bulk food imports on track." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 3 January 2010.
  • Government of Canada. "Canada - Cuba Relations." Government of Canada. N.p., April 2009.
  • - - -. "Doing Business with Cuba." Government of Canada. N.p., 2 March 2009.
  • - - -. "Fact Sheet - Cuba." Government of Canada. N.p., May 2011.
  • Israel, Esteban. "In 'eat local' movement, Cuba is years ahead." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 15 December 2008.
  • Neill, Morgan. "Cuban leader looks to boost food production." Cable News Network, 17 April 2008.
  • Raffensperger, Lisa. "Changes on the Horizon for Cuba's Sustainable Agriculture." World Resources Institute. N.p., 5 May 2008.
  • Statistics Canada. "Canada-Cuba Trade." (Canadian Agri-Food Trade System). Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 10 January 2011.
  • "Trade with Cuba." United States Department of Agriculture, Foreign Agricultural Service. N.p., 12 January 2009.
  • World Trade Organization (WTO). "Cuba Country Profile." World Trade Organization (WTO). N.p., March 2011.