Another R350 million loan for Cuba

Pretoria – South Africa and Cuba have signed a R350-million Economic Assistance Package Agreement geared towards helping that country improve its food security,

The total R350-million package to the island nation is three-pronged, with the first portion being a R40-million grant for the purchase of seeds by Cuba.

Of that R40 million, Cuba is expected to use R5 million to buy seeds in South Africa, said Trade and Industry (dti) Minister Rob Davies. The remaining R35 million can be used by Cuba for the purchase of seeds from any other country.

The grant is aimed at providing support for Cuba to ensure food security. The Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Department will be responsible for facilitating the seed purchase in South Africa.

The second part of the agreement is a R100 million solidarity grant. The third portion is a R210-million credit line which will go out in two tranches of R70 and R140 million. This is a loan facility with the R70 million being made available to Cuba immediately.

<b>Speaking at the signing ceremony of the agreement on Friday, Davies said South Africa "owes an enormous amount" to Cuba since the struggle years for the support received from that country. </b>

The signing ceremony coincided with the 50th commemoration of US political and economic sanctions on Cuba. Davies explained that South Africa has never lent its support to the embargo, which international law does not recognise.

"We don’t support it," said Davies.

During his visit to Havana in 2010, President Jacob Zuma wrote off debt owed to South Africa. Davies said the two countries had fallen behind in beneficial trade and that the hoped the money, which has been approved by Cabinet, will stimulate mutually beneficial ties.

"The gesture is appreciated. It is expected to impact positively on our country," said Cuban ambassador to South Africa Angel Villa.

The trade between the two nations has been growing and dipping throughout the years, with imports from Cuba being much larger. The main trade between the nations is medical products as well as vaccines, while South Africa imports processed foods and wine, among others. – BuaNews

(date:) 2012-02-03

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