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Sysco Seeks More Business with Cuba

HOUSTON - Sysco Corp., the largest foodservice distributor in North America, revealed yesterday that it is negotiating with Cuban officials to increase sales to the communist island's tourism industry under an exception to the U.S. trade embargo, reported the company and business media.

So far, the company has sold only about $500,000 worth of food to the country since late 2003, said David Dickson, president of the company's Alabama operation. However, pundits believe the there is great potential for increased trade.

Dickson said that the Alabama operation was working with Cuban food import officials "on a strategic plan to provide world class food products to the tourism industry." He indicated that other potential markets for Sysco in Cuba include hospitals and schools.

"We believe that Sysco has huge business opportunities in the Cuban market," said Pedro Alvarez, chairman of Cuba's food import company Alimport.

Most trade between the U.S. and Cuba is prohibited under sanctions in place since Fidel Castro's coup d'etat 40 years ago.

In 2000 the U.S. granted an exemption to the embargo, allowing for the direct, commercial sales of American farm goods to Cuba on a cash basis. The country began buying U.S. food under the law in late 2001.

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