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Cuban tobacco farmers relate well with NC agriculture officials

Posted September 30, 2015

— When conversations happen in different languages, things can often get lost in translation.

But in a chat between farmers from Cuba and North Carolina, tobacco is a word that crosses linguistic boundaries.

And while the word may be the same, there are major differences between how tobacco is produced in North Carolina and Cuba. North Carolina's agriculture delegation, which has been exploring new trade opportunities in Cuba this week, noticed the differences right away.

In Cuba, many of the tobacco farmers sell most of their crop to the government. Ivan Hernandez, a farmer in Vinales, sells about 90 percent of his crop to Cuba. He can keep or sell the rest of it.

Beth Farrell, with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture, said the differences extend well beyond how Cuban farmers sell their products.

"Their crop management production systems are so different than our large-scale production in North Carolina," she said. "Hand labor versus equipment, we've seen very few tractors that weren't moving people."

Gaining a better understanding of the crops and operations of agriculture in Cuba is a big part of the process as North Carolina officials explore possible trade options.

"No matter where you are in the world, farmers are trying to do the same thing," Farrell said. "They're trying to feed their communities."

Twenty-eight agricultural leaders from North Carolina spent three days in Cuba, and they've already invited their Cuban counterparts to visit the Tar Heel State.


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