HAVANA -- Cuba has agreed to buy about $125 million in farm goods from US companies attending trade talks in Havana, officials say.
The deals, which were agreed upon during three days of negotiations that ended Friday, surpassed expectations, said Pedro Alvarez, chairman of the Cuban food import company Alimport.
Cuba had expected to sign deals worth about $100 million going into the talks, he said.
About 300 people, primarily producers of American farm goods, attended the meetings, as did several lawmakers -- including Senator Max Baucus of Montana, the top Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee.
On Thursday, Cuban President Fidel Castro addressed the group for several hours on subjects ranging from Cuba's health care system to a recent government decision to take the American dollar out of circulation on the island.
Despite the positive signals, Alvarez on the opening day of talks told the group that recent actions by the US government prompted the Cuban government to buy some farm products from countries other than the United States.
Beginning a few weeks ago, some companies trading with Cuba found that payments made by the island were not being credited to bank accounts in the United States on instructions from the US government. A Treasury Department office that administers policy regarding a four-decade trade embargo against Cuba, has since allowed transactions on a case-by-case basis.
The action led Cuba to buy 385,000 tons of products -- including wheat, corn, soy products, powdered milk, and chicken -- from other countries, Alvarez said. That meant US firms missed out on about $100 million, he said.
''Food shouldn't be used as a political instrument," he said.