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Alabama Soybeans Bound for Cuba

At the Port of Mobile, Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture and Industries Ron Sparks commented, as he and officials from Alabama Farmers Cooperative (AFC) stood on Alabama’s public seaport teminals and watched the OCEAN FAVOUR being loaded with soybeans bound for Cuba, “This shipment of soybeans represents the first of many exports that will be sent to Cuba from Alabama because of the millions of dollars in contracts that were negotiated in 2004 alone. 

“We are so fortunate to have the Port of Mobile as a hub for shipping our local products. Not only have we been able to increase our sales to Cuba, but Alabama will be able to benefit from the contracts made by other states because a large number of them will be required to ship goods out of the Port of Mobile.” 

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AFC Vice President of Grain, John Gamble, center; Alabama Commissioner of Agriculture, Ron Sparks, right; and AFC’s Grain Department Merchandising Manager, Glenn Smith, stand before the vessel OCEAN FAVOUR as it is being loaded with 450,000 bushels of Alabama grown soybeans destined for Havana, Cuba.

Glenn Smith, merchandising manager for the AFC Grain Department, explained the circumstances of the dock meeting. “During our stay in Mobile for the annual meeting of Alabama Farmers Coop, our timing was fortunate in that at the Alabama State Port Authority’s grain terminal, an ocean bound vessel was loading Alabama grown soybeans for export to Cuba. This was the third such vessel that has loaded, bound for Havana, since January. The Grain Department is proud to have contributed nearly a half-million bushels of soybeans to these shipments. 

“We are foremost grateful to Commissioner Sparks for his continuing commitment to the growth in exports of Alabama products to Cuba. We wish to thank Mr. Chris Aberle, Director of Sales for F.C. Stone, Inc.; and Mr. Tom Bryant, Grain Merchandiser and Risk Management Consultant, Farmers Grain Dealers, Inc., for their partnership in this profitable trade of AFC merchandised grain to Alimport, the import-purchasing agency for Cuba. We also wish to thank Ms. Maria Conchita Mendez, Port Authority’s Director of Latin American Sales and Trade Develop-ment, not only for her time and efforts during our visit to the Port, but also for her help and guidance regarding business dealings with Alimport https://www.alafarmnews.com/files/0305archive/during our trade missions to havana.” 

John Gamble, AFC vice president of grain, echoed Smith’s sentiment, “The AFC Grain Department is proud to achieve one of its strategic goals of the year by shipping 450,000 bushels of soybeans to Mobile for shipment to Cuba. We appreciate everything Commissioner Sparks has done for the producers of Alabama by opening new markets for their commodities.” 

The Port Authority’s partnership with FGDI, Inc. in the operation of the grain elevator is marketed toward shippers of smaller grain movements as well as the larger international shippers. The grain elevator has a high-speed headhouse with four bottom hopper rail car dumpers, two truck dumps and three 40,000 bushels-per-hour shipping systems with grain cleaning, digital weighing and sampling components. Vessels are loaded by two rail-mounted ship loaders, each of which is capable of delivering 80,000 bushels per hour. Ships, similar to the OCEAN FAVOUR, of up to 1,000 feet long can be accommodated at the 800-foot-long riverside berth. Storage capacity at the grain elevator is 3.1 million bushels.

The Alabama State Port Authority terminals represent about 60% of terminal operations at the Port of Mobile and serve as the public docks for general cargo, bulk and containerized commodities. Alabama’s public terminals at Mobile have excellent transportation advantages. The Authority’s terminals are located 32 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, with immediate access to two Interstate systems (I-10 and I-65), five Class I railroads and nearly 1500 miles of inland waterways, including the Tennessee-Tombigbee and Intracoastal Waterways. The Port Authority also owns ten inland docks facilities on five river systems (Tennessee, Chattahoochee, Flint (ACF), the Alabama, and Warrior/Tombigbee). 

The Port Authority in Mobile stopped trading with Cuba in 1961 when Castro defeated a CIA-backed assault at the Bay of Pigs and the United States imposed an embargo.
In 2000, Congress created a small opening in the embargo and legalized the cash sale of farm and health care products to the island. Under this limited trade agreement, Alabama became the 35th state to send agricultural goods such as wood products, poultry, cattle and cotton. The first vessel from the Mobile was a soybean shipment in March 2003 and was the first shipment from Alabama’s public terminals to the island in four decades. The first shipments from the U.S. arriving in Havana in 2001 totaled $4.5 million. Sales in 2005 are expected to reach $1 billion. 

Officials with the Port Authority have stated that the Mobile area alone could gain $2 billion in annual trade and 40,000 additional jobs if the United States ends the embargo. The Port Authority’s facilities is credited in a University of South Alabama 1997 study as being responsible for 118,000 Alabama jobs with over $3 billion in economic impact statewide.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006