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Doing Business in Cuba By Dawne Parris

A market of over 12 million people is nothing for

and beverage distributors in Cuba. It’s also eyeing

challenges of breaking into and competing in the

Caribbean exporters to thumb their noses at. That’s

the hotel and tourism sector and retail stores.

Cuban market, however, are numerous.

CARICOM would benefit. So when CARICOM

Chief Executive Officer Ronald Ramjattan says

Cuba has one of the world’s few remaining

and Cuba signed a reciprocal Trade and Economic

it would have been remiss of his 24-year-old

centrally planned economies, with the

Cooperation Agreement 15 years ago, it provided

company, which is already in several other markets

government controlling 90% of the economy.

exporters in the region with access to millions of

in the region, not to have looked at Cuba. “Cuba is

All trade with that country must be conducted

potential customers. The reciprocal agreement,

a new and emerging market with over 12 million

through the state. Goods can therefore only be

which focused mainly on trade in goods, gave duty-

inhabitants sharing a similar culture and food

imported into Cuba by government entities and

free or duty reduced entry to Cuba of specific goods

preference with the rest of the Caribbean people,”

joint ventures holding permits for the goods in

such as fruit juices, sauces, condiments, seasonings,

he says. “The Cuban market is similar in many


and clothing from the CARICOM region. While

aspects to the rest of the Caribbean, even though

the agreement is now, more or less, inactive, several

the Spanish influence does have its fair share of

The high cost of transportation (both sea and

established companies have taken advantage of the

difference from us.”

air); legal and institutional differences; and

the kind of market from which any company in

opportunity of access to the Cuban market, though not without having to overcome several hurdles.


insufficient finance and credit mechanisms are As Ramjattan acknowledged, the benefits are

some of the other major obstacles. Added to the

significant for any CARICOM exporter. They

strict rules which guide the country’s import

Baron Foods Limited, a Saint Lucian manufacturing

include having access to a large, regional market

policy, language was a hurdle for Baron Foods.

company with a Food Safety System Certification

that American competitors can’t take advantage

(FSSC) 22000 V3 certified product range of 165

of, due to the longstanding US embargo against

“Spanish being the spoken language is one of the

condiments and beverages is one such company.

trade with Cuba. Even though from January 2015,

main barriers we had to face. The selling terms are

it became possible for Americans to visit Cuba

completely different too as they are looking for

Five of its condiments and sauces have been

without a specific licence if the visit falls under any

three to six-month credit facilities,” says Ramjattan.

approved and accepted for sale in the Cuban

of 12 categories, there are still limits to the amount

market and the company is awaiting a confirmed

of goods that can be brought into the country in

Kapril Industries, however, did not have the

order from TRD Caribe, one of the largest food

luggage, and shipped by boat from abroad. The

language barrier problem.

Caribbean Export OUTLOOK 2016