By Hank Tester

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – In dire need of food, Cuba has been getting shiploads of donated food from Mexico, Russia, China, Vietnam, and Bolivia.

But did you know that US ships carry food and medicine to the island nation arrive on a regular basis?

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“In 2000, the US Congress passed and Bill Clinton signed into law. The trade sanctions reform and enhancement act that reactivated direct export from the US to Cuba agricultural and food products,” said John Kavulich, president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

President Clinton signed the legislation after a papal visit to the island with the hope of improving conditions for individual Cubans, who would undermine the support for the Castro regime.

The Castro government is still in charge and the US is still sending food, mostly chicken to the island.

“Cuba has been incredibly successful watching the prices when they are down the will buy. When prices are up they will be cautious,” said Kavulich.

The chicken trade benefits major US chicken producers who have long lobbied for ending the embargo looking to increase their Cuba business.

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Food exports in US dollars as of June 2019, $18.8 million, and on June 2020, $5.5-million.

This during the crisis in tourism due to COVID and in June 2021, $28.2 million. A lot of chicken and much needed when for the Cuban people, food is hard to come by.

“One provision of the law is that payment by cash in advance and that was done to protect US exporters from what most certainly would be a default by Cuba,” said Kavulich.

Over the years, the Cubans have stiffed so many of their traditional supporters who now are reluctant to extend credit. Dealing with the US, paying cash is much easier.

“So, if you are going to use cash. Use it when you are going to get a good product and good prices with good delivery terms,” said Kavulich.

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The US also allows export to Cuba of pharmaceuticals and medical devices all on a cash basis paid in advance.