Artisanal marabu charcoal to become 1st Cuban export to US
BY MICHAEL WEISSENSTEIN
Artisanal charcoal will become the first legal Cuban export to the
United States in decades under a deal announced Thursday between Cuba's
government and the former lawyer for imprisoned U.S. government
contractor Alan Gross.
Attorney Scott Gilbert, who has sought to build economic ties between
the two countries since Gross' release, said a company that he founded
will buy 40 tons of charcoal made from the invasive woody plant marabu.
The charcoal is produced by hundreds of worker-owned cooperatives across
Cuba and has become an increasingly profitable export, valued for its
clean-burning properties and often used in pizza and bread ovens.
Gilbert's company will pay $420 a ton, which is significantly above the
wholesale market price of about $360. The first delivery is scheduled
for Jan. 18, two days before the inauguration of Donald Trump as U.S.
Products of privately run or cooperative farms in Cuba can be exported
to the United States under measures introduced by President Barack Obama
after the Dec. 17, 2014, declaration of detente with Cuba. The measures
loosen a 55-year-old trade embargo on Cuba.
The charcoal is sold by cooperatives to a local packager, which sells it
on to state-run export firm CubaExport. Each middleman takes a 1 percent
or 2 percent commission, CubaExport general director Isabel O'Reilly
said. CubaExport said the charcoal would be the first legal export to
the United States in more than five decades, and it hoped to expand the
deal to include honey and coffee.
The charcoal will be sold to restaurants and online to consumers in
33-pound bags under the brand name Fogo, Gilbert said.
Cuba sells about 40,000 to 80,000 tons of marabu charcoal annually to
buyers in Italy, Germany and about a half dozen other countries,
Gilbert said he was confident the Trump administration would allow the
deal to continue, even though the president-elect has promised to
reverse much of Obama's opening with Cuba unless the island's communist
government makes political concessions.
"I think that once they have examined this situation and looked at all
the facts, that they will be supportive of increased engagement and the
economic changes that it will bring," Gilbert said.
Under Obama's changes, American visitors to Cuba can return with
unlimited rum and cigars, but state-run companies cannot export those
products to the U.S.
Source: Artisanal marabu charcoal to become 1st Cuban export to US |
Miami Herald -