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Cuba to buy food worth $1.6 bln abroad in 2007

Cuba expects to import $1.6 billion worth of food in 2007, the country's foreign trade company head said ahead of talks called to secure the daily food supply for the population.

Havana, the capital of the import-dependent Communist island, hosts talks starting Monday with US agricultural producers, which are Cuba's main food suppliers along with South American countries, Canada, Europe, China and Vietnam. Alimport head Pedro Alvarez said 95% of the imports would be rationed out to the 11.2-million population at low prices, while 5% would be sold at foreign currency shops.

Alvarez said Havana expected to clinch deals worth over $500 million with the US delegation on deliveries of flour, wheat, corn, rice, poultry and other foods. Since Washington allowed food to begin being sold to Cuba in 2001 as an exception to the embargo imposed against Fidel Castro's regime in the 1960s, the country has imported 7.8 million metric tons of agricultural products from the US, hitting a total of $2 billion. (