Russia and Cuba strike a deal to revive the communist-run island’s ailing economy

HAVANA, May 19 (Reuters) – Russian officials and business leaders signed several agreements with their Cuban counterparts at a forum in Havana this week, agreeing to work together to boost sugar and rum production and ensure supplies of wheat and crude oil to the communist movement. island, and rehabilitating dilapidated tourism facilities.

The longtime political allies — both subject to U.S. sanctions — are seeking to stabilize economic ties by facilitating trade and investment.

„(The agreements) are a milestone in the history of our bilateral and commercial relations,” Cuban Foreign Trade Minister Ricardo Caprizas said in a speech closing Friday’s forum.

Russia’s Protindork contract to supply wheat to Cuba’s state-owned Alimport company aims to „guarantee the stability” of supply to the Cuban people, according to a Cuban-Russian business group document seen by Reuters.

Another agreement would create a Cuba-based market for Russian goods, including food and household goods, called Rusmarket, which would help improve direct and liquid shipping routes between the two countries, the document said.

A third agreement says the white-sand beaches, just minutes from Havana, are „ideal for enjoying the sea, fishing and diving.”

Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Tourism, Sports, Culture and Communications Dmitry Chernyshenko announced separately on Friday a presidential order to restore by July 2022 regular flights between Russia and Cuba, which have been suspended since March 2022 due to the conflict in Ukraine.

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Other deals announced this week include one aimed at creating a Russian-Cuban rum company, which will seek to boost Cuba’s exports of the precious rum. Cuban state-run media reports that Russia provided funding, know-how and technology to restart a steel plant in Cuba to supply construction materials to Cuba.

Top Russian business leaders praised Cuba earlier this week for opening its doors to Russian investors and offering „preferential treatment” including tariff exemptions, long-term land concessions and ease of repatriation of profits.

According to Cuban officials, more than 150 Russian businessmen attended the forum in Havana.

Sugar deal

Russia this week pledged to help revive Cuba’s sugar industry, which has nearly collapsed in recent years as its output has fallen to historic lows.

Alexander Bogadir of Russia’s Progress Agro told Reuters on the sidelines of the forum that his company and Cuban state-run sugar company Azcuba would launch a joint venture early next year to rehabilitate an aging „Uruguay” sugar mill in Sancti Spiritus province. .

The company eventually hopes to export 150,000 tonnes of sugar a year, about a third of its nationwide target this year.

„Cuba was once one of the best producers (of sugar) in the international market, and working with this project, we hope to gradually raise the level of production,” Bogadir said.

He called the project a Russian investment, but declined to provide figures.

„It will be a significant investment because we will be bringing in all new equipment and organizing things like fertilizers and special technology needed for sugarcane production,” he said.

Bilateral trade between Cuba and Russia will reach $450 million in 2022, three times more than in 2021, and rise to $137.6 million in the first four months of 2023, nine times more than the same period last year, Russian officials said.

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(This story has been corrected to change the title of Dmitry Chernyshenko in paragraph 7)

Reporting by Nelson Acosta and Dave Sherwood in Havana, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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