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CONTAMINATION: Cuba lifts ban on U.S. long-grain rice

------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------
TITLE:  Cuba lifts ban on U.S. long-grain rice
SOURCE: The Boston Globe, USA
AUTHOR: The Associated Press, by Will Weissert
DATE:   27.04.2007

Cuba lifts ban on U.S. long-grain rice

HAVANA --Cuba has lifted a ban on imports of U.S. long-grain rice that
it put in place last year because of fears about genetic contamination.

Raul Sanchez, director of the U.S. division of the island's food import
company Alimport, said Friday the ban was lifted earlier this month and
that in recent weeks Cuba has imported 30,000 tons of long-grain U.S.
rice and expects to import 10,000 more soon.

A U.S. announcement in August that American long-grain rice samples had
tested positive for trace amounts of a genetically modified strain not
approved for consumption prompted Japan to suspend its U.S. rice
imports. Cuba imposed a ban of its own after conducting independent
testing, Sanchez said.

Sanchez, who spoke during a meeting with U.S. medical company
representatives, did not provide details about the exact date and why
Cuba had lifted the ban, suggesting only that U.S. long-grain rice no
longer appeared to be a problem.

Washington's 45-year-old embargo against communist Cuba chokes off most
trade between the two countries but U.S. companies can sell medicine and
medical supplies directly to the country under the 1992 Cuban Democracy
Act. A law approved in 2000 authorized cash-only payments for U.S. food
and agricultural products.

Sanchez said that so far this year Cuba has spent $196.8 million on
American food and agricultural products after spending $578.8 million in
all of 2006. Cuba includes shipping and other logistical costs when
divulging the total amount paid for U.S. goods.

Addressing representatives from Mercury Medical, a Florida medical
supply company visiting Cuba to display equipment, Sanchez said that
since 2001, Cuba has spent $2.2 billion on American food and farm
products, but nearly $340 million of that went to shipping alone.

The New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, attempting to
estimate the amount Cuba spent on U.S. imports without taking into
account logistical costs, reported the island bought about $340 million
in American food and agricultural products last year.

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