In rare move, Cuba buys U.S. soyoil as S. American supplies tighten
By Michael Hirtzer
CHICAGO, June 13 (Reuters) - Cuba made its first U.S. soyoil purchase in more than five years this month, the latest sign that drought and heavy rains in South America have tightened supplies and disrupted longstanding trade patterns.
Buyers of soybeans and soy products have increasingly turned to the United States after rains reduced Argentina soy crop quality and stocks ran low in Brazil. Brazil is the top soybean exporter while Argentina ships the most soyoil and soymeal.
In an unusual move, the United States sold 7,600 tonnes of soyoil to the Caribbean island in the first week of June, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data on Friday.
While the shipment comprised a small portion of U.S. exports, it was the biggest to Cuba since 2010 and the first since 2011. The companies involved were not identified. One trader noted the refined oil could be used for cooking.
Some traders said the sale could mark Cuba's quiet return to U.S. shores for agricultural products, including rice, chicken and wheat, as relations improve between the former Cold War foes more than half a century after the United States slapped a trade embargo on its Caribbean Sea neighbor.
"Because of their location, Cuba could normally get most of their commodities cheaper from the United States. This is the opening of that door for trade to take place," Arlan Suderman, analyst at trade house INTL FCStone, said of the soyoil sale.
Cuba was the No. 1 export destination of U.S. rice before Fidel Castro overthrew the government at the end of the 1950s and the United States imposed a trade embargo in 1960.
Last month, Mike Martin, owner of the Martin Rice Company, delivered about 20 tonnes of Missouri-grown long grain rice at no cost to Cuba in a gesture of goodwill, in what would be the largest shipment of U.S. rice to Cuba since 2008. Continuación...