All federally inspected meat, poultry and egg plants in the United States are now eligible to export to Cuba under export requirements published this week. The USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) posted the list of eligible products and documentation requirements for meat, poultry and egg producers who want to ship products to Cuba. Eligible products include fresh and frozen pork and pork products, fresh and frozen beef and beef products, and fresh and frozen sheep and goats, and sheep and goat products. Eggs are not specifically listed as an eligible product, but poultry and poultry products are included. There are restrictions on birds from certain states before certain dates, apparently because of avian flu outbreaks that occurred during those times. States with those poultry export restrictions include Arkansas, California, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. The restricted dates vary by state. The FSIS export requirements note that trade with Cuba remains restricted and that exporters must adhere to U.S. Department of Treasury requirements, with the responsibility falling on the exporters to comply. The FSIS export requirements are linked to the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Meat and poultry exporters to Cuba are also required to document their shipments with letters of certificate for export. Food exports to Cuba have been possible since before President Obama resumed diplomatic relations with the island nation about a year ago. However, cash sales are required, a reason many give for why U.S. exports to Cuba have actually fallen off since Obama’s opening. According to USDA, Cuba imported about $250 million on average in U.S. food products from 2013 to 2015, with half of that being meat and poultry exports. By comparison, about $1.3 billion in U.S. food products were exported to the Dominican Republic, which is similar to Cuba in economic size. However, no Cuban meat, poultry or egg establishment has yet been approved to export to the U.S. Congress is considering legislation to allow private financing of U.S. food exports to Cuba.
(To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)