Cuba – Country Profile

Cuba – Country Profile

General Information

Official Name Republic of Cuba
Capital Havana
Land Area 110,000 sq. Km
Population 11.2 M
Currency 1 $CAD = 0.80 Cuban Convertible Peso
National Holiday January 1st (Triumph of the Revolution)
Language(s) Spanish
Source: Economic Intelligence Unit, Oanda (Currency Conversion 07/04/2015)

Political Information

Form of State Centralised political system
Head of State President Rául Castro
Elections Last February 2013; next: February 2018
Source: Economic Intelligence Unit

Economic Information

Cuba Canada
GDP (PPP) $159 billion $1,668 billion
GDP per capita $12,854 $47,531
GDP annual growth rate 2.7% 2.01%
GDP – composition by sector Agriculture: 3.9%Industry: 22.3%Services: 73.7% Agriculture: 1.7%Industry: 28.4%Services: 69.9%
Inflation rate – average consumer prices 6% 0.96%
Main industries Petroleum, nickel, cobalt, pharmaceuticals, tobacco, construction, steel, cement, agricultural machinery, sugar. Transportation equipment, chemicals, processed and unprocessed minerals, food products, wood and paper products, fish products, petroleum and natural gas.
Note: 2013 data in Canadian dollars ($CAD)
Source: IMF World Economic Outlook, World Bank Data, CIA World Factbook, Bank of Canada (Currency Conversion 14/04/2015)

Political and Economic Stability

Cuba remains the only communist country in the Western Hemisphere. In the year 2008, there was a transfer of power from former head of state Fidel Castro to his brother Raul Castro. Under Raul Castro, Cuba has seen several reforms and changes to help the economy. These reforms are not changing the scale to capitalism or privatisations but rather target access to goods, flexibility in housing, and higher salaries.

On December 17th, 2014 the president of the United States Barack Obama announced that restrictions on trade and travel with Cuba would be eased. This announcement has created great expectations for the economic future of Cuba and has sparked interest among US investors for business opportunities in a possible post-embargo era. The announcement was followed by the surprising participation of both President Barack Obama and Raul Castro at the seventh summit of the Americas in Panama.

A high-quality medical sector, a booming tourism industry, along with a skilled yet low-cost workforce are some of the major strengths of the Cuban economy which contributed to positive GDP growth for the last four years, and estimated 3.5% growth for 2015. Inflation in Cuba has experienced a four year average of 5.5% and is estimated to decrease slightly to 5% in 2015. The Cuban economy faces several challenges including limited access to external financing, low levels of investment and infrastructure, and low productivity of public and agricultural sectors.


The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada (DFATD) recommends that Canadians exercise normal security precautions when traveling in Cuba. For detailed and up-to-date information on travel security, please refer to the DFATD Travel Report for Cuba.

Trade Information

Trade Partners & Direction 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Average Yearly Growth
Cuba exports to the World ($CAD Million) $ 2,646 $ 2,855 $ 3,503 $ 2,952 $ 3,164 4%
Cuba exports to Canada ($CAD Million) $ 318 $ 390 $ 462 $ 422 $ 468 8%
Canadian Exports to Cuba ($ CAD Million) $ 500 $ 653 $ 703 $ 540 $ 498 0%
Note: Data in millions of Canadian dollars ($CAD)
Source: Trade Data Online (Industry Canada), Trade Map (International Trade Centre)
Excluding mineral products (HS2 Codes 26-27 and 71-80)
Source: International Trade Centre Trade Map
Excluding mineral products (HS2 Codes 26-27 and 71-80)
Note: 0 percent means less than 1%
Source: Industry Canada Trade Data Online

Business Climate

Although there are many reputable exporters in Cuba, Canadian importers should be aware that corruption could be an issue when doing business in the country. Cuba ranked 63 out of 177 in Transparency International’s 2013 Corruption Perceptions Index where 1st place indicates least corrupt. Canadian companies are advised to exercise strict due diligence before working with a company from Cuba to ensure that it is a bona fide and reputable entity. It is suggested that Canadian importers commission a report by a credit information provider to verify the financial strength of the partner.

Sustainability Initiatives

The agricultural revolution in Cuba has ignited the imaginations of people all over the world. Cuba’s model serves as a foundation for self-sufficiency, and a more environmentally sustainable society. Instead of turning towards austerity measures and making concessions to large international powers during a severe economic downturn, Cubans reorganized food production and worked to gain food sovereignty as a means of environmental protection, and national security.

Since 2010, a consortium of Cuban and international organizations have worked together towards a socially responsible enterprise (SRE) initiative involving a series of programs designed to facilitate a dialogue between Cuban and Latin American organizations engaged in SRE. With financial support from Canada’s International Research Development Council (IDRC), this group has successfully helped organize visits to São Paulo, Brazil which has opened new channels for knowledge sharing and collaboration between Cuba and South America, and catalyzed homegrown initiatives to positively impact the growth of SRE in Cuba. The first visit of a delegation consisted of six Cubans—representatives from government and academia—to the Ethos Institute’s annual Conference in São Paulo in May 2010. Participants heard from successful cooperatives, microfinance institutions, public sector managers, and NGOs, and shared viewpoints and experiences on collaboratively developed sustainable enterprises. The Cuban delegation learned practical and actionable insights and left energized to plan a series of activities of exchanges and meetings on the island.

Trade Opportunities

Cuba’s exports to Canada grew an average of 8% from 2009 to 2013. The country’s economy is based on the transformation of agricultural products, including sugar and rum made from sugar cane and cigars made from natural tobacco leaves. In addition to these well-known Cuban specialties, many other opportunities exist for Canadian importers.

Double Brace: Top Cuban Product Opportunities: - Rum - Tobacco - Seafood - Pharmaceutical products - Natural honey 1. Rum

Liqueurs and spirits are the number one export from Cuba to Canada, representing 33% of total exports and CAD $5.8 million. These alcoholic beverages are also one of the Cuba’s primary exports to the world, generating CAD $171 million for the Cuban economy each year. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, the volume of rum sales in Canada is forecast to reach 29.2 million liters by 2016. Canadian liquor stores and agencies sold CAD $5.4B worth of spirits between from 2012 to 2013. Rum was the fourth most popular liquor sold in Canada, with a growth of 4.1%.

2. Tobacco

Tobacco products (cigars, cigarillos) accounted for 32% of Cuba’s exports to Canada in 2013. This amounts to a total of CAD $5.2 million, an increase form CAD $4.9 million in 2012. Cuba is well known for the production of cigars due to their high quality and taste. The country manufactures a wide variety of tobacco products, offering opportunities for Canadian importers to explore these products. In 2014, Cuba continues to increase its tobacco exports to CAD$5.6M.

3. Seafood

Live fish, crustaceans and molluscs represent 27% of the top 10 exports from Cuba to Canada and are the fifth most importedproduct from Cuba. For the tropical island, the seafood industry represents more than CAD $55 million to the economy and benefits from competitive advantages of year-round production and geographical region. In the central and eastern part of the country, water temperatures range from 23-27°C and waters from the Gulf guarantee a continuous non-polluted, high quality water flow. Among the types of fish caught locally are tuna, hake, and needlefish. By the early 21st century, Cuba had diversified its fishing activities to include aquaculture (sea bream, sea bass, tilapia, and carp). It also increased the number of processing plants, especially for shrimp and lobster, with foreign investment from Canada and the European Union.

4. Pharmaceutical Products

Pharmaceutical products are a large part of the Cuban economy as they are locally produced and stand for 19% of top ten exports to the world. Pharmaceutical drug values are difficult to determine as they are highly regulated and controlled by the government. The Cuban pharmaceutical market is the smallest in the Americas region leaving plenty of room for growth.

5. Natural honey

Cuba is the third largest Latin American exporter of natural honey to Canada and, as perceived by unit value, holds the highest quality honey in the Latin American region. La Planta de Procesamiento y Beneficio de Miel (honey producers) are responsible for the production of an estimated 70% of Cuba’s honey, including production of 2,160 tons of 100% organic honey in the first trimester of 2015. The continuous growth of natural honey in Cuba has driven this processing plant to reach a daily production capacity of 18 tons.

TFO Canada Export Offers

TFO Canada provides an information service for Canadian importers interested in sourcing products from developing and emerging economies such as Bangladesh. This includes practical advice on sourcing from developing country exporters, a customized news bulletin including new leads from Bangladesh as they come in, and a searchable database for sourcing new products and suppliers. The chart below provides a rough idea of the number of supplier profiles from Bangladesh, available online with contact information through TFO Canada’s searchable Supplier Database.

Industry Group No. of Suppliers in TFO Canada Database
Food Products and Beverages(including Seafood) 2
Personal Care, Pharmaceuticals and Natural Health Products. 1

Export Promotion Agency

Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores
Avenida de los Presidentes
La Habana, Cuba

Useful Links

Association for the study of the Cuban Economy
Cuban Association of Agricultural and Forestry Technicians
Association of Cuban Engineers
Trabajadores (Newspaper)
Agencia Cubana De Noticias
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba

Links to Cited Documents

Bank of Canada – Daily Currency Convertor
Canadian Trade Commissioner Service – Country Info
CIA World Factbook
DFATD (Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development) – Foreign Relations
DFATD (Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development) – Travel Reports
EDC (Export Development Canada) – Country Profiles
Industry Canada – Trade Data Online
International Trade Centre – Trade Map
Transparency International – Corruption Perception Index
World Bank – Doing Business Report
World Bank – Open Data
Bank of Canada – Daily Currency Convertor
Canadian Trade Commissioner Service – Country Info
CIA World Factbook
DFATD (Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development) – Foreign Relations
DFATD (Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade & Development) – Travel Reports
EDC (Export Development Canada) – Country Profiles