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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S., Cuba To Sign Food Deals

HAVANA -- Cuba was expected to sign deals worth $150 million with U.S. food producers at talks starting on Monday that point to sustained U.S. interest in the Cuban market despite political hurdles.

Uncertainty over the fate of ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro caused a "hiccup," said Kirby Jones, president of the U.S. Cuba Trade Association, but business has continued seamlessly under the caretaker government of his brother Raul Castro, and it is now picking up.

One U.S. farm-state delegation after another has gone a to Havana this year to pitch sales of heat, corn, beans, peas, lentils, chicken and other products needed by Communist Cuba to feed its people.

The governors of Nebraska and Idaho visited Havana, and Delaware sent its first trade mission eyeing a new market.

Last week, North Dakota won agreements to supply seed potatoes and red spring wheat.

A delegation from Alabama arrived on Friday.

U.S. sales to Cuba are allowed on a cash-only basis under an exception to the embargo enforced against Castro's leftist government since 1962. Despite the hostility between Washington and Havana, exports have totaled $1.55 billion since 2001.

Last year, sales declined 10 percent to $350 million, a dip blamed on a 2005 decision by U.S. President George W. Bush's administration to require Cuba to pay before its food shipments can leave U.S. ports.