Russian officials and business leaders signed several deals with Cuban counterparts at a forum this week in Havana, agreeing to work together to boost sugar and rum production, secure wheat and crude oil supplies to the communist-ruled island and rehabilitate run-down tourist facilities.
The longtime political allies – both subject to US sanctions – are trying to strengthen economic ties by facilitating trade and investment.
The agreements “represent a milestone in the history of our bilateral and commercial relationship,” said Ricardo Cabrisas, Cuba’s foreign trade minister, in a speech closing the forum on Friday.
The agreements include a contract for Russia’s Prodintorg to supply wheat to Cuba’s state-owned Alimport, with the aim of ensuring “the stability” of supplies to the Cuban people, according to a document from the Cuban-Russian Economic Committee seen by Reuters.
Another deal will create a Cuba-based marketplace for Russian goods, including groceries and household goods, called Rusmarket, which will also help spur the development of more direct and fluid shipping routes between the two countries, the document said.
A third agreement expresses Russia’s and Cuba’s intention to revitalize the run-down beach community of Tarara, whose white-sand beaches just minutes from Havana, the document says, “are ideal for enjoying the sea, fishing and boating.” dive”.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Tourism, Sports, Culture and Communications Dmitry Chernyshenko on Friday separately announced a presidential order to resume by July regular flights between Russia and Cuba, which have been suspended since March 2022 due to the conflict in Ukraine .
Other agreements announced this week include one aimed at creating a Russo-Cuban rum company that aims to boost exports of Cuba’s prized rum. According to Cuban state media reports, Russia also provided funds, know-how and technology to restart a steel plant in Cuba to supply the island with building materials.
Russian business leaders earlier this week praised Cuba for opening the door to Russian investors and giving them “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.
Russia also pledged this week to help revitalize Cuba’s once-vaunted sugar industry, which has nearly collapsed in recent years as its output plummeted to historic lows.
Aleksandr Bogatyr of Russia’s Progress Agro told Reuters on the sidelines of the forum that his company and Cuba’s state-owned sugar company Azcuba would set up a joint venture as early as next year to overhaul the aging Uruguay sugar factory in Sancti Spiritus province.
The company hopes to eventually export up to 150,000 tons of sugar a year, about a third of this year’s nationwide target.
“Cuba was once one of the largest sugar producers in the international market, and together we hope to gradually increase production volumes with this project,” said Bogatyr.
He called the project a Russian investment but declined to give numbers.
“It would be a significant investment as we would bring all the new equipment and organize the supplies necessary for sugar cane production such as fertilizers and special technology,” he said.
Bilateral trade between Cuba and Russia reached $450 million in 2022, three times that of 2021, and grew to $137.6 million in the first four months of 2023, nine times that of the same Period last year, Russian officials said.