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Hard to know if Rowan County produce ends up in Cuba

Millions of dollars worth of North Carolina agricultural products are exported to Cuba, but it’s hard to tell how much of that, if any, is coming from Rowan County.
Agricultural products from North Carolina have been going to the communist nation in the Caribbean for years. The United State’s decades-long trade embargo on Cuba doesn’t include food or medicine. For 2014, the value of products sent to Cuba from the state was $8.4 million through October, according to U.S. Census data.
But that figure doesn’t represent the total amount, according to Peter Thornton, assistant director of international marketing for the state’s Department of Agriculture.
He said how the official numbers get reported depends on where the company or trader selling the product has its address. The produce may be grown in North Carolina but then bought by a company with an out-of-state address.
For this year, the $8.4 million in exports is all poultry products, Thornton said. But he said corn, soybeans and apples from North Carolina are going to Cuba, too.
Those products are leaving from the port in Norfolk, Va., Thornton said, adding the Port of Wilmington does not have direct shipping service to Cuba.
Whether any of the product originates in Rowan County would be difficult, if not impossible, to determine, he said.
The reason why is the logistics of bulk agricultural products, Thornton said. Crops bought from a farm go to central distribution centers and are combined in containers with crops from other farms.
Overall, Rowan County is in the middle of the pack when it comes to agriculture production in the state. For 2012, the county had $50 million in cash receipts for crops, livestock, dairy and poultry products and government payments. That put it at 57th out of the state’s 100 counties.
Rowan ranked 29th in corn production and 34th in soybean production in 2012.
In terms of agriculture, Cuba is the state’s 29th largest export market this year. China and Japan are the top markets — both countries have each imported more than $400 million worth of agricultural products from North Carolina in 2014.
Contact reporter David Purtell at 704-797-4264.

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