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Sysco Drops Plans to Expand Business with Cuba

HOUSTON - Sysco Corp. here has abandoned plans to expand business with Cuba, citing language in the contract that conflicted with corporate policy, according to media reports.

On Aug. 11, Sysco Food Services of Central Alabama signed a letter of intent with Cuba to increase food sales. However David Dickson, the president and ceo of the division who signed the document, retracted it less than a week later. The letter of intent included a statement that both parties would work to normalize trade relations between Cuba and the United States. Sysco subsidiaries are not authorized to make political or government policy statements, Toni Spiegelmyer, assistant vice president of investor and media relations, was quoted by the media as saying.

The United States has generally prohibited trade with Cuba over the past four decades. However, a four-year-old law makes it legal to sell American farm products to the communist nation.

Since last fall, the Alabama subsidiary had generated $500,000 in sales with Cuba.
"At this time, we don't have plans to do business with Cuba," Spiegelmyer commented, "but we will fulfill any obligations if there are any."

Ken Spitler, Sysco's executive vice president of foodservice operations, explained that Dickinson didn't realize what he was signing. "He was in the business of making a sale. It's one of those situations you get into when you're an aggressive company," Spitler said.

Sysco will continue to keep its business focus on the United States and Canada, Spitler said.

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