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Cuba to Buy $66 Million in American Food

HAVANA, Cuba - Cuban officials on Sunday said the country had struck deals to buy more than $66 million in American food at a historical agribusiness show, The Associated Press reports.

Signing ceremonies for contracts totaling close to $35 million in American food were held during the first four days of the fair, which started Thursday and ends Monday. Contracts for almost $15 million were signed on Sunday alone.

President Fidel Castro told American exhibitors at a dinner Saturday night that Cuba would buy at least $60 million of their goods before the trade show closed on Monday. He noted that there have been no cases of late payment for goods purchased, contrary to some skeptics' predictions. Cuba's purchases of U.S. farm products began in November.

Contracts struck at the show include $5 million for soybean and corn from F.C. Stone of Iowa, $1 million for eggs from Dolphin Shipping & Trading of Georgia, $7.4 million for soybeans, soy flour and corn from Bunge of New York, and $1.4 million for rice from Riceland of Arkansas.

On Sunday morning, some exhibitors began giving away food products brought to display. Goldkist Inc. of Atlanta gave away 600 pounds of frozen chicken, which were gone in just five minutes, according to the AP.

The exhibition featured 288 exhibitors from 33 American states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. The show and participants are fully licensed by the U.S. government to be in Cuba, which remains under a trade embargo of more than four decades.

Creating an exception to those sanctions, a U.S. law in 2000 permitted the first direct commercial sales of American food and agricultural products to the communist-run island in 40 years.

Havana for a year refused to take advantage of the law, because it prohibits American financing, requiring all sales to be made in cash.
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