Emerging Market & Strategic Location
Cuba represents an emerging and unique business opportunity. Inevitably, the United States will normalize trade relations with Cuba, and in the future, it will become an important market for U.S. Companies.
Cuba is ideally positioned to be a global hub for conventional trade and commerce. Both Mexico and the United States are less than 100 miles from the island, and Havana is closer to Charleston, Savannah, and Houston than any of these major US ports are to Washington, DC, or New York City.
The country’s existing inventory of industrial plants along with its sea, air and transportation infrastructure could attract significant foreign interest and become a focal point that enables it to fulfill its economic potential. It is projected that trade between Florida and Cuba, following normalization of trade relations with the United States will surpass the trade that Florida has with Brazil.
US investments in industry, privatization and programs to rebuild the island's infrastructure would create demand for construction equipment, building materials and other bigger ticket items. Cuba's Infrastructure is crumbling and new roads, water and sewage systems And housing will have to be built on a large scale. US suppliers of the necessary equipment will be well positioned to take advantage of these opportunities.
Selected Business Opportunities in a Post-Embargo Cuba
1. Transportation Industries
  • Airports
  • Roads & Bridges
  • Railways
  • Trucking Facilities
  • Urban Transportation
  • Trucking Warehousing
  • Rail Warehousing
  • General Warehousing Projects
  • Storage Yards
  • Related Industries (i.e. Marinas)
Roads & Highways:
One of the island’s strong points is its transportation system, which is in acceptable conditions for Third World standards. There are more than 21,100 miles of high-ways. Of these 6,290 miles are paved and 7,391 miles having gravel surface. The road network will require less investment to upgrade than other parts of the infrastructure. There is a relatively new intra-island expressway, but there are less than 800 gas stations in the country (most of them in need of upgrading) of which 120 are located in Havana.
With 9,270 miles of track, Cuba’s main railway system presents unique opportunities for cargo transportation. The country maintains one of the Caribbean’s two remaining passenger railroads (the other is in Jamaica). The sugar industry, Cuba’s largest, uses approximately 2,900 miles of track to transport cane from the fields to the mills. The railway equipment needs to be upgraded and modernized.
There are 10 international airports. The largest commercial facility, located in Havana, handles more than 1,500,000 passengers each year and has the capacity to process 1,800 per hour. Perhaps, Cuba’s biggest air “wild card” is its eight strategically located military airports (which have not been converted to civilian use), all of which have substantial runways. These could easily be converted to civilian international airports.
2. Maritime & Ports
  • Cargo Ports
  • Cargo Import/Export
Cuba’s coastline sports a total of 70 ports, 31 with cargo operations. Ten of these can be categorized as major ports. The island’s seaports are deep, protected harbors with narrow entrances but spacious anchorage. The port system can handle 150,000-ton oil tankers, accept modern roll-on, roll-off vessels, discharge all types of grain and fertilizers in bulk, handle modern 40-foot containers in experimental gantry cranes, and even dock up to six submarines in state-of-the-art facilities. In some of the Cuban ports, important dredging works and other type of improvements are necessary.
3. Construction Aggregates & Materials
  • Cement Plants & Projects
  • Quarries for Construction Aggregates Quarries for Marble
  • Quarries for Gypsum
  • Quarries for Feldspar
  • Quarries for Kaolin
  • Bathroom Fixture Plants
  • Glass Factories
  • Aluminum Windows & Doors Mfg.
  • Asphalt Plants
  • Paint Factories
  • Tile Factories
  • Brick Factories
  • Metal Fixture Factory
  • Brass & Bronze Factory
  • Furniture Manufacturer
  • Scaffold Plant
  • Batching Plant
  • Pre-fab Concrete Yards
  • Piers for Marine Sands
Perhaps one of the most obvious future investment opportunities in Cuba will be in the area of construction of new homes, apartments and office buildings. Other new developments can be expected in hotels, tourist resorts and commercial construction. The island is well poised to deal with this issue. There are six cement plants with a combined capacity of 5.3 million Mt/year, as well as, 22 facilities to produce prefabricated homes and 11 brick plants scattered throughout the country.
4. Mining & Mining Products
  • Nickel
  • Manganese
  • Mineral Waters
  • Chromite
  • Zinc and Lead
  • Copper
  • Industrial Materials
The history of mining in Cuba dates back to 1512 when the first mine in the western hemisphere was established by colonists there. Cuba has identified over 200 mining deposits, many of which have not been exploited due to the lack of capital and know how, but include: Copper, Lead, Zinc, Manganese and a number of other minerals, including 27% of the world’s reserve of Nickel and Cobalt. There are 53 active mining operations in the country extracting and processing such diverse products as nickel oxides, nickel sulfur, cobalt concen-trates, diverse copper concentrates, gold Chromite, and others. The current high demand of base metals in the world is a major factor for Cuban Mining industry. The industry has considerable idle capabilities in the existing mines, and there are many possibilities for new mining projects.
5. Water & Sewer Treatment
  • Large Potential for Ethanol (Sugar Cane Mills)
  • Thermal
  • Hydro
  • Nuclear
  • Transmission & Substations
  • Transformer Fabricators
  • Related Industries
  • Gas Manufacturing Plants
  • Gas Distribution
  • Crude Oil Derivatives & Lubes
  • Tank Farms
  • Pipe Lines
  • Sewer Treatment Plants
  • Sewer Treatment Projects
  • Dam Projects
  • Well Fields
  • Main Water Conductors
Industrial Facilities:
Cuba’s industrial plants are surprisingly diverse in capabilities, quality and products produced. There are more than 290 large factories with more than 500 employees manufacturing products as varied as cranes, engines, steel containers, elevators, railway cars and complete sugar mills. The loss of the former Soviet bloc markets have kept most of them from operating at full capacity since then. There are opportunities to upgrade a number of manufacturing facilities.
There are 14 large and medium electrical-power plants with a total generating capacity of 3,192 mega-watts. The system consists of pre-1959 US-built plants as well as newer Japanese, French and Soviet-bloc facilities. One-third of its plants are more than 35 years old and in need of constant repair. Several medium size gas-burning units have been recently installed for an additional 405 mega-watts. A large group of 6,301 small diesel generators from Germany, South Korea and Chine has been installed, adding a further 1,311 mega-watts to the system.
The petroleum and petrochemical industry is one of Cuba’s lesser known. There are oil refineries in Havana (two), Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and Cabaiguan with a combined capacity of 13 million tons/year. The country extracts about 2.2 million tons/year and there are sixteen major international oil companies drilling on the island. The oils and gas potential of the Cuban portion of the Gulf of Mexico basin and other areas are very large (more than 4 billion barrels of crude oil and more than 5 trillion cubic feet of gas), waiting for the vast investment and state of the art technologies required for is detailed exploration and extraction.
6. Pharmaceutical, Biotechnology & Genetics
  • Vaccines (Meningitis, Hepatitis B) Plant
  • Immonopreparates Plant
  • Melangenine Lab
  • Gammaglobulina Lab
  • Hemoderivatives Lab
  • Interferon Lab Certified Seeds Plant
  • Artificial Insemination & Bovine Embryos Plant
  • Electronic Assembly & Software
  • Active & Passive Components Plant
  • Tropicalization Lab
  • Assembly of TV Sets, Radio Recorders,
  • Professional Audio Equipment, Telephone Sets, & Battery Plant
  • Computer Keyboards Plant
  • Medical Equipment, Microelectronics
  • Printed Circuit Plant
Biotechnology & Pharmaceutical:
The Cuban government has invested a substantial amount of resources to develop its Biotechnology Industry. The Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology outside of Havana is a favorite project of the Cuban government and its efforts have resulted in substantial export earnings for Cuba in the sale of meningitis B vaccine, interferon, and the heart attack medicine streptokinase. Additionally, Cuba has made a major effort to promote and sell its SUM 321 HIV detection device in Third-World countries. While processing fine research and manufacturing facilities for biotechnical products, Cuba's developmental efforts have been hindered by rigid state ownership and planning mechanisms, insufficient capitalization, failure to comply with rigorous Western clinical trial protocols, and a basic lack of understanding of capitalist techniques and marketing skills.
The effects of Cuba's large investment in biotechnology are several: the creation of a scientific education network, the training of a large number of research scientists, and the development of more than 200 products. The Cuban biotech-nology industry stems from the creation in the 1980s of the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, which evolved from Cuba's already strong emphasis on medical education.
7. Telecommunications, Technology & Media
  • National TV Stations
  • Regional TV Stations
  • National Radio Stations
  • Regional Radio Stations
  • National Newspapers
  • Regional Newspapers
  • Satellite Reception Station
  • Coaxial Cable Network
  • Military Telecommunications Operations
  • Telephonic Network
The telephone infrastructure cannot support adequate services by developed-country standards. A penetration rate of 12.0 phones per 100 persons is among the lowest in Latin America. Telecommunications facilities are made up of a mix of obsolete US and former soviet-bloc equipment and modern European systems with the recent addition of other sources. Much of the domestic equipment outside of Havana is more than 25 years old and in need of repairs and modernization.
8. Food, Food Processing, Fisheries & Beverages
  • Paste Canning Factories
  • Large Glass Bottle Manufacturing Plants
  • Soya Processing
  • Dairy Processing
  • Plastic Containers Manufacturing
  • Chicken Plucking, Packaging & Processing
  • Honey & Wax Processing & Packaging
  • Citrus Juice and Concentrate Plants
  • Banana Paste Processing & Packaging
  • Candy Manufacturing Factories
  • Coconut Processing Plant
  • Fish and Seafood Packaging Port Facilities
  • Canned Seafood Plant
  • Frozen Seafood Facilities
  • Canned Tuna Plant
  • Fish Food Processing & Packaging Plant
  • Brewer Plants
  • Rum & Liquor Plant
  • Soda Bottling Plant
  • Dry Freeze Coffee Project
  • Sugar Mills
  • Refining Plants & Co-generation
  • Oil & Molasses Tank Farms
  • Irrigation Network
Alcoholic Beverages:
Cuba produces 30 million bottles of rum annually, and earns $100 million from the export of this sector. The output of the Havana Club bottling plant in 1990 was 20 million liters, up from 16 million liters in 1989. Cuba sells rum to Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, and Canada. In early 2007 Pernaud – Ricard inaugurated a new plant at San Jose de las Lajas with a capacity of further 16 million bottles (for export) The United States is the largest consumer of rum in the world - the United States consumes about 40 million cases of rum annually.
Cuba continues to be one of the world's largest suppliers on high-quality lobster and shrimp. The Cuban fishing industry saw an increase in the gross catch from 220,000 tons in 1985 to a record catch in 1989 of 250,000 tons, or 10% of the total fishery landing in the Caribbean and Central American region. However by 1993 gross catch had dropped to 93,500 Mt and again dropped in 1994 to 87,900 Mt. Approximately 90% of Cuba's fishery production is landed by the distant-water fleet, which fishes in many regions in the pacific and Atlantic Oceans. In 2007, it was reported that Cuba had twenty high-technology trawlers operating in the North Atlantic.
It is reported that in 2006, Cuba exported 12,000 tons of lobster, 19,000 tons of shrimp, and 1,000 tons of tuna. Cuba reportedly earned $310 million in 2006 for its seafood, with lobster being most of the total. Cuba has also begun farming shrimp in the last several years. In 2006, Cuban shrimp farms produced 1,500 tons of shrimp.
9. Cruise Ship Industry, Tourism, Tourism Related & Entertainment
  • Hotel & Motel Units
  • Airlines
  • Commissary, Concessions, Excursions, Bus Lines, & Security Projects
  • Entertainment
  • Theaters
  • Restaurants
  • Night Clubs
  • Museums
  • Performing Centers
  • Botanical Gardens
  • Planetarium
  • Zoological Parks
  • Aquariums
  • Cave Tours
Tourism & Cruise:
By the end of 2006, approximately 32,000 quality rooms at 210 establishments were available for international tourists. Approximately 9,000 of these are in Varadero; 8,000 in Habana;3,500 in different portion of the northern coast; 2,000 in Playas del Este and 900 in Cayo Largo. Three thousand new rooms are currently under construction in Varadero/Havana and another 4,000 throughout the Island.
At the present rate of construction, by anyone's statistical measurement, Cuba hold the lion share of hotel rooms in the Caribbean market since the end of 1996, with the Dominican Republic's 27,000 rooms as a second place.
Cuba is currently attracting considerable numbers of Canadian, European and Latin American tourists. Of Cuba's more than 2,000,000 tourists last year, almost 64% originated in Canada and Western Europe and a small amount from the United States.
Cuba has yet to capitalize on either the U.S. segment of the market or on the ever-growing 8 million cruise passengers which visit the Caribbean every year. An consider the target-Prerevolution 87% of Cuba's tourist were U.S. travelers. It is predictable that Cuba will continue to promote its natural and colonial beauty and divert significant domestic resources to expand this industry.
Cuba has more than 2,000 miles of coastline, with 280 pristine beaches; A large number of historical attractions, coral reefs, lush Island mountains, some of the region's best fishing and hunting, and a notable ecosystem and valuable species of flora and fauna.
10. Environmental Remediation
  • Pollution of Surface Waters
  • Bay Pollution (Inc. Dredging)
  • Coral Reef Damage
  • Erosion of Beaches
  • Creation of Marine Reserves
  • Nuclear Power Plant
  • Relocation of Factories
  • Asbestos Clean Up
  • Replacement/Renovation Factories
  • Dismantlement Military Facilities
  • Soil Degradation
  • Forrest Corrective Action
  • Flora & Fauna Corrective Action
  • Rivers Clean Up
The collapse of the economy has served to reduce industrial pollution. The adoption of a Soviet-inspired model of industrial development was environ-mentally damaging, since ecological safeguards and associated technologies were not a priority. Cuba's industrial infrastructure, including its oil refineries and cement plants, is inefficient and a major source of air and water pollutants. Another important pollution source is the technologically-backward national fleet of cars, trucks, and buses, mostly imported from the former Soviet Union and the Eastern European countries. Many Joint Venture partners has introduced friendlier environmental practices reducing the environmental impact (Sherritt International in the Nickel industry is a good instance)
On the other hand, many of the economic emergency measures introduced during the "special period" convey grave threats to the environment. Particularly alarming are those associated with the development of the tourist industry. The Castro government, in its zeal to promote the development of this sector, appears to be repeating the same mistakes responsible for the ecological deterioration of most Caribbean countries.
The economic recovery started in 2003 is likely to exacerbate some environmental pressures alleviated under the "special period." Cuba's environmental tomorrow will depend on the development model the country pursues in years to come, and on the extent to which this model takes into account economic/ environmental tradeoffs regarding production and consumption decisions.
11. Textiles Industry
  • Fabric Manufacturing Facilities
  • Yarn Plants
  • Knit Plants
  • Sewing Factories
  • Footwear Factory
  • Tannery (Leather Factory)
  • Sports Leather Goods Factory
  • Assembly Plant Projects
  • Kenaf Fabric & Sewing Factory
  • Ropes Plant (Sisal Fibers)
  • Rayon Fibers Plant
Cuba has eight weaving mills. Cuban exports of textile products are primarily: undergarments, towels, shirts, and shoes to Western Europe. Textile importing countries include Spain, Italy, England, and France. In the Western Hemisphere, Cuba exports textiles to Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela.
Cuba has signed textile agreements with firms from six foreign countries. In 1975, Cuba contracted with Mitsubishi of Japan and Picagnol of Belgium to develop a large textile complex in Santa Clara province. The plant, which came on line in 1980, has an annual capacity of 60 million square meters of poly-esterviscose, polyester-cotton, and cotton textiles. The capacity available for joint production contracts is 33 million square meters of fabric. Foreign partners in production arrangements supply spare parts, printing rollers, chemicals, and textile fibers. Sales agreements have been signed with Italy, India, Spain, Canada, Panama, and the Netherlands. The Santa Clara complex also exports to the United Kingdom, Nicaragua, and Vietnam.
In 1993, a Mexican textile group (Grupo Industrial Danta) signed a joint venture agreement with the Cuban state company Union de Textiles, to manage the Turquisa Textile Mill (Cuba's largest). The Mexican group supplies management, technology and raw material and has the right to market 100% of the production. Danta plans to refurbish a total of 17 textile plants that were virtually paralyzed for lack of maintenance. Eventually, the goal is to produce 370 million sq. meters of finished plain textile and to employ 35,000 people. The venture is known as the "International Textile Corporation".
There is a large potential for US companies in the textile sector of Cuba’s economy.
12. Chemicals, Fertilizers & Agriculture Industry
  • Nitrate Fertilizers
  • Sulfuric Acid Manufacturing
  • Nitric Acid Manufacturing
  • Caustic Soda
  • Ammonia Tank Farms
  • Carbide, Lime & Acetylene
  • Industrial Gases Manufacturing
  • Pesticides Projects
  • Phosphatic Rock Blenders
  • White Paper Factory
  • Yeast Plants
  • Furfural & Furfuric Acid, Vegetable Wax
  • Heavy Molecular Weight Alcohol
  • Citrus Essential Oil
  • Citrus By-Products Processing for Animal Feed
  • Rice Chaff Animal Feed
Cuba is best known for its agricultural industry. There are 92 sugar mills and eight white-sugar refineries with installed capacity of 6.5 million tons/year of raw sugar. The country also produces citrus products, tobacco, coffee, bananas, potatoes, rice, winter vegetables, tropical fruits and other crops. Tobacco has traditionally been the second largest farm export, with tobacco farms accounting for some 123,500 acres and producing 48,000 tons.
Based on 1989 statistics, when most of Cuba's agricultural products ended up in Soviet block countries Cuba used to produce:
  • Most than a million ton of citrus products
  • More bananas than Costa Rica
  • More coffee than El Salvador
  • As well as tobacco, winter vegetables, bananas, and other products
The largely dependent of imports and inefficient agriculture output was drastically reduced, and in 2006 re-started to grow with a much larger participation of small private Producers.
Cuba ranked as the fourteenth largest producer and fourth largest exporter of citrus fruits in the world after Spain, the United States, and Morocco. In 1994 Cuba exported 505,000 tons of citrus fruit. In 1995, Cuba devoted roughly 350,000 gross acres of land to citrus crops of which 21% is non-bearing. The average per acre yield for bearing orange trees of all ages in Cuba is estimated by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences to be about 110 90-lb. boxes while the average yield for bearing orange acreage in Florida is around 350 90-lb boxes per acre.
Fertilizers & Pesticides:
Cuban fertilizer imports include urea, simple and triple superphosphate, ammonium sulfate, potassium chloride, potassium sulfate, ammonium nitrate and other fertilizers. Volume reached over one million metric tons in the late 1980s—over 200 million Cuban convertible pesos. Growth in volume of these imports was over 900% from 1958-1989.
Until 1989, the majority of the fertilizers were imported from the U.S.S.R., although some quantities were purchased from East Germany and a few Western countries.
Herbicides and other pesticides show more dramatic increases in imports. More than 10,000 metric tons of herbicides were imported per year during the 1984-89 period, representing over an expenditure of 50 million Cuban pesos. In just ten years (1965-75) the volume of herbicide imports increased by 2,700%, while the growth from 1965 to 1989 was of 3,310%. Imports of pesti-cides, however, show a less dramatic increase. In 1989, Cuba imported close to 10,000 metric tons for a value of over 25 million pesos. The increase in volume from 1965 to 1989 was close to 200%.
Herbicides and other pesticides were purchased mainly from Switzerland, Eastern and Federal Germany, the United Kingdom and other Western countries.
In a post-embargo Cuba, the potential for US companies to export products for the Cuban agricultural sector can be in excess of $2.5 billion a year.
13. Cold Metallurgy, Ferrites & Specialized Ceramics
  • Impact Cold Metallurgy, Ferrites & Magnetic Components,
  • Refractory Ceramics,
  • Abrasives & Refractory Materials,
  • Abrasives Project,
  • Refractory Materials
Metal Products:
Cuba's industrial plants are surprisingly diverse in capabilities, quality and products produced. There are over 290 large factories with over 500 emplo-yees with the capacity of manufacturing products as varied as: Cranes, engines, steel containers, elevators, railway cars and complete sugar mills. Many of Cuba's manufactured products have been made possible through licensing agreements, technology transfers, and turnkey operations. Recent (since 2005) economic growing has re-activated the production at some of these plants but still far from operating at full capacity.