20 Mar 2016

US dairy state sets sights on Cuba

6:01 pm on 20 March 2016

An American politician eyeing the chance for US companies to supplant New Zealand as a key supplier of milk powder to Cuba is accompanying President Barack Obama to the island tomorrow.

Wisconsin House of Representatives member, Reid Ribble.

Wisconsin House of Representatives member, Reid Ribble. Photo: AFP

Mr Obama wants to ease the Cuban trade embargo, and a Wisconsin House of Representatives member, Reid Ribble, is part of a small delegation of Republican lawmakers joining him.

It has been estimated the trade embargo which was imposed in the 1960s has cost the United States about $US1.2 billion a year. But despite developments in US-Cuba relations, Mr Obama has been unable to lift the embargo, with Congress continuing to block it.

Cuba imports up to 100,000 tonnes of milk powder annually, mainly from New Zealand, South America and Poland.

Mr Ribble represents Wisconsin - a key dairying state - and said his farmers wanted a chance to sell to an island just 150 kilometres from the US coast.

"My congressional district is the second largest producer of milk, the largest producer of cheese, largest producer of yoghurt in the United States, as this relationship with the Cubans evolves, I certainly want Wisconsin to be top of mind down there."

Trade figures show that in 2015, New Zealand exported $NZ83,251,804 worth of dairy products to Cuba.

- BBC