WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. — A delegation of grain importers and officials from Cuba is traveling in the U.S. April 18-22 to observe firsthand the advantages of purchasing U.S. coarse grains and co-products, the U.S. Grains Council (USGC) said.

Cuba has purchased corn from the U.S. since the early 2000s, with market share varying widely from as high as 100% to just 15% more recently. In addition, the country has also purchased U.S. distiller’s dried grains with solubles (DDGS).

However, sales have been stymied in both Cuba and the rest of the region by competition from other sources and the ongoing embargo. If Cuba purchased all of its imported corn from the U.S., it would be the 10th largest overseas market for the product, USGC said.

“We are continuing to assess how to best serve Cuba’s needs as its economy shifts and restrictions begin to fall,” said Alan Tiemann, USGC chairman. “The team’s visits this week will help establish relationships and provide them basic information about the U.S. grain buying system that is essential to enhance U.S. competitiveness.”

While in the Washington, D.C. area, the team members will visit with staff at the council, U.S. grower organizations, agribusinesses and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). They will also take a farm tour on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, U.S.

The team will then travel to St. Louis, Missouri, U.S, and New Orleans, Louisiana, U.S., to meet with additional agriculture organizations and companies and see the breadth and depth of the U.S. marketing, handling, transportation and export systems.

“These face-to-face interactions with key contacts will help to highlight that the United States is able to be the reliable long-term supplier they need and establish a strong foundation for future dealings,” Tiemann said.

Following the Obama Administration’s announcement in late 2014 that it would seek to dismantle the 50-year-old restrictions on how companies and individuals interact with Cuba, the council has reassessed the Cuban market and is working to help mitigate ongoing barriers to grain sales there.

“While the politics with financing and ending the embargo must be dealt with by the U.S. Congress, we are closely monitoring this market and committed to helping our Cuban partners develop the expertise and connections that will lead to future sales,” Tiemann said.