Marabú charcoal for the United States

Cuba and the United States opened a new year with the signing of agreements that continue polishing off relations between both countries.

The representatives of CubaExport and of Coabana Trading were able to open the U.S. borders to the first Cuban product in five decades: charcoal produced from marabú.

Ironically, one of the woody plants most cursed in Cuban fields has become the raw material for the first product that Cuba is able to export to the United States after five decades of economic blockade.

The year started with the signing of several agreements to continue sorting out relations between both countries and one of them was signed for the U.S. purchase of charcoal produced by Cubans from marabú.


Representatives of the CubaExport enterprise and the U.S. Coabana Trading LLC signed the agreement on January 5 in Havana, at the headquarters of the Foreign Trade and Investments Ministry (MINREX) after a long period of negotiations.


The first shipment of Cuban charcoal, two containers with 20 tons, will cross the U.S. border next January 18, two days before Donald Trump assumes the presidency of that country.


The president of Reneo Consulting LLC, a subsidiary of Coabana, Scott Gilbert, expressed his faith in that ties underway would be maintained and expanded with Trump if the president-elect’s administration believes in free trade, he said.

The production of charcoal in artisanal ovens has become an important industry that has placed more than 80,000 tons in other countries.

The production of charcoal in artisanal ovens has become an important industry that has placed more than 80,000 tons in other countries.


“We hope to work with the new government as we have done with that of Barack Obama,” the businessman said after signing the agreement which he defined as “one more beam in the construction of the bridge between the United States and Cuba.”


Isabel O’Reilly, director of CubaExport, who signed this agreement for the Cuban side, was also confident. “We hope to continue our relationship for many years and not just with charcoal, but also with other products we have ready to export like bee honey and coffee,” she said.


The artisanal production of charcoal from a species that invades Cuban fields, the marabú, has been gaining force for several years. Produced by cooperative members in association with state-run enterprises, it has been exported for more than 10 years to several countries in Europe and Asia.


CubaExport came to an agreement with Reneo Consulting for a price of 420 dollars per ton of this charcoal. The highest price in other markets was 380 dollars. “The sale at a higher price was achieved with the United States,” said O’Reilly.


In addition to CubaExport, the Cuban charcoal is exported by Cimex, Citricos Caribes and Alcona. Between the four enterprises, each year Cuba exports a maximum of 80,000 tons to some seven countries.


In addition to its high caloric and energetic power, which makes it one of the most appreciated in the world, this charcoal has the virtue that it is produced in artisanal ovens and does not cause deforestation because it is produced with a species that Cuba has combatted unsuccessfully for more than half a century. It’s conversion into raw material of great value seems to be opening the doors to a definitive solution.


On January 6, one day after the signing of the agreement for charcoal, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the elimination from its list of sanctions of 28 enterprises and individuals who acted as intermediaries in trade with Cuba.


The OFAC took off from that list 17 enterprises and 11 individuals residing in Mexico, Argentina, Panama, Japan, the United Kingdom and Holland. The U.S. economic blockade’s extraterritorial laws against Cuba had been threatening them with sanctions for operating in commercial relations with the island.


During these first days of January, both countries signed another important cooperation agreement for preparation and response to oil spills and the spilling of other harmful substances potentially contaminating and dangerous in the area of the Gulf of Mexico and the Straits of Florida. (2017)

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