Port officials in Virginia and Cuba have signed a pact expected to increase agricultural exports to the Caribbean nation, Gov. Terry McAuliffe announced Jan. 5.
Under terms of a “memorandum of understanding,” the Virginia Port Authority and the Cuban National Port Authority will weigh commercial opportunities between the Port of Virginia and the newly opened Port of Mariel Special Development Project, the governor’s office said in a statement.
“This agreement will enhance Virginia’s trading relationship with Cuba and supports our efforts to build the new Virginia economy,” McAuliffe said. “Virginia enjoys a uniquely productive economic relationship with Cuba, and this MOU will generate additional opportunities for economic and cultural exchange.”
Last year, Virginia exported $25 million in agricultural products to Cuba, all noncontainerized bulk shipments, said Todd Haymore, state secretary of agriculture and forestry, who accompanied McAuliffe on a trade mission to Cuba this week.
The new agreement “will help position Virginia to provide container service for agricultural products such as poultry, pork and apples, which are shipped in refrigerated containers,” Haymore said.
Tom Capozzi, chief sales officer of Virginia International Terminals, the port authority’s operations arm, noted that now there is no direct container service between Virginia and Cuba.
“Our agribusiness companies that ship products in containers could benefit from enhanced cooperation between our port terminals and the Port of Mariel, especially as Mariel becomes an important trans-ship service provider for the region,” he said.
Capozzi also accompanied McAuliffe to Cuba.
The governor noted that “the full potential of opportunities with Cuba will never be realized until the U.S. embargo against Cuba is ended.”