Cuba Plans to Buy From Black Farmers

HAVANA (AP) — Cuba agreed to buy food from black American farmers under a U.S. law that allows direct sales of farm products to the island, an NAACP delegation announced Friday.

The U.S. law passed in 2000 chips away at the U.S. embargo imposed in the early 1960s after Castro took power. Since Cuba started taking advantage of the law a year ago, it has purchased more than $200 million worth of American food in cash, much of it from large agribusiness corporations. Black farmers, most of whom have small operations, also are interested in finding new markets.

``This is a historic announcement and one that I personally find very heartening,'' said Kweisi Mfume, head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. ``President Fidel Castro promised to establish trade links with black farmers and it appears he has kept his word.''

Mfume and John Boyd, president of the National Black Farmers Association, announced the understanding on future food sales after meeting with Pedro Alvarez, director of Cuba's food import company. No specific deals were announced.

``On behalf of 12,000 full-time and 7,000 part-time black farmers, we certainly appreciate the opportunity to do business in Cuba,'' Boyd said.

The black farmers and Cuban officials will later work on specific agreements for sales of food such as chicken rice and flour, Mfume said. He also said the NAACP would press large American agricultural businesses already selling food to Cuba to partner up with black farmers.

The NAACP arrived in Cuba on Monday for the goodwill and trade mission.
In addition to Castro, delegates met with dissidents, U.S. diplomats and Cuban officials.

On Thursday, they visited the Latin American School of Medicine, where they met with some of the 56 black American students attending classes there, and stopped by an agricultural cooperative. They also met with leaders of the Federation of Cuban Women.

The NAACP, the oldest and largest civil rights organization in the United States, also is exploring the possibility of establishing a branch in Cuba, Mfume said earlier in the week. It is also considering inviting Cuban representatives to its national convention, to be held in Miami on July 11, a group spokesman said.

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