Georgia is sending the fourth largest delegation of agribusiness company representatives to Cuba for the first event in more than four decades in which U.S. firms are permitted to sell their products on Cuban soil.

 The Sept. 26-30 U.S. Food & Agribusiness Exhibition in Havana, Cuba, is expected to draw more than 200 U.S.-based companies and some 18,000 visitors, according to Andres Villegas, director of international trade and marketing for the Georgia Department of Agriculture.

Florida, Illinois and North Dakota are sending the largest delegations from the United States to the event.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture is taking seven representatives of Georgia food and wood products companies to display their products at the Georgia pavilion, Mr. Villegas told GlobalFax in an interview.

The Georgia Ports Authority and the U.S. Poultry & Egg Export Council, which will take eight Georgia poultry companies, will also host delegations to attend the exhibition, he added.

“This exhibition is an effort to allow Georgia food and wood companies to present their products directly to representatives running stores in Cuba. Managers, directors and buying agents of Cuban businesses will then have the opportunity to request purchases of US products through the Cuban government’s importing agency, Alimport, for cash payment,” Mr. Villegas said.

“To date, Cuba has purchased over $120 million in U.S. products using cash payments, which have worked well.”

          U.S. companies have been allowed as of December last year to sell food and medicine to Alimport on a cash basis. Cuba has purchased some $117 million worth of agricultural and food products from U.S. companies in 2002.

These purchases made Cuba 52nd of the 228 countries to which the United States exported agricultural products this year, according to the New York-based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council Inc.

The difference with selling to Cuba rather then other countries, Mr. Villegas said, is that there is only one broker that buys all imported products. Alimport is the exclusive contracting agent for agricultural and food products, he said.

While there, Georgia delegates will be briefed by the chief of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana and visit various agribusiness facilities, including an airport cargo facility, meat processing plant and supermarkets.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tommy Irvin is to participate in the exhibition’s opening ceremonies. The agriculture commissioners of Minnesota and Virginia are also scheduled to attend.

Visit www.cubaexhibitions.com for exhibition information. A live broadcast of the exhibition will be aired by U.S. radio from 7-10 p.m. nightly during the conference. Visit www.brucewilliams.com for details.