The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a severe blow to a Cuban economy that was already struggling under the weight of increased sanctions and a decline in tourism. For a country that imports roughly 60 percent of its food, reports of shortages and a return of the ration booklet make it clear that the pandemic is having an impact on Cuban food security. The Cuban Ministry of Agriculture has promoted increased domestic production to compensate for reduced imports. Nevertheless, trade will remain a necessity, and there are U.S. producers eager to ship goods.
AS/COA's Cuba Working Group (CWG) is pleased to host Paul Johnson, co-chair of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba and Margarita Fernandez, coordinator of the Cuba-U.S. Agroecology Network, for a discussion on the current state of Cuban agriculture, sustainability, and food security efforts in Cuba, as well as prospects for U.S. agricultural trade with Cuba amid the pandemic. Even with heightened tensions between Cuba and the United States, there are areas of cooperation within the realm of agriculture and agroecology that could prove promising.
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Executive Director, Vermont Caribbean Institute (VCI)
Margarita Fernandez is the executive director of the Vermont Caribbean Institute (VCI), a small non-profit organization that implements collaborative projects, and coordinates professional exchanges and educational courses that address sustainable food systems and biodiversity conservation in Cuba since 2004. She also coordinates the Cuba-US Agroecology Network.
Co-chair of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba (USACC)
Paul Johnson works closely with the business and political communities to improve trade relations and investment between the United States and Cuba. His focus is on improving agriculture production, supply chains, trade, investment, and the sustainability of our shared natural resources. Over the past twenty years Paul has traveled to and for extended periods lived in Cuba as a student of its culture, language, history, and commerce. His Master's thesis on Havana’s economic development, researched in 1999, sparked his interest in doing business in Cuba.