Arkansas Rice Growers Could Benefit from Normalized Relations with Cuba

LITTLE ROCK, AR - Normalized relations with Cuba could mean millions in export dollars for Arkansas rice growers and others.

Federal officials are downplaying the possibility of lifting the U.S. embargo on Cuba now that Fidel Castro says he's stepping down.

With Cuba now importing Asian rice, Arkansas' proximity to the island and plentiful rice harvest could be alluring for a nation with a cuisine that emphasizes the grain.

Cooperative Extension Service economist Bobby Coats says Arkansas sells a little over a million dollars a year worth of goods to Cuba.  Last year, most of that trade was in meat and poultry.  The year before, mostly rice.

In 2005, the state saw a bump to $2.7 million in sales to Cuba, mostly from rice exports.