UAPB joins Arkansas trade mission to Cuba

Will Hehemann School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences

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From left: Dr. Edmund Buckner, interim dean/director for the UAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences, Dr. Jose Andres Diaz Untoria, director general of the Institute of Animal Science in Mayabeque, Cuba, Dr. Mark Cochran, vice president for agriculture for the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, and Dr. Rebecca Lochmann, interim chair of the UAPB Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries.

Administrators from the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture Fisheries and Human Sciences (SAFHS) recently traveled to Cuba as part of a delegation of the World Trade Center (WTC) of Arkansas. The WTC trade mission was a follow-up on Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s previous visit to Cuba in 2015, intended to promote trade between the island nation and the Arkansas agriculture industry.

Dr. Edmund Buckner, interim dean/director for SAFHS, and Dr. Rebecca Lochmann, interim chair, UAPB Department of Aquaculture and Fisheries and interim director of the Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence, were among the WTC delegation that was led by Wes Ward, Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture. Other delegates included members of the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, Arkansas Rice Federation, Rockefeller Institute and other Arkansas businesses.

A business forum organized by the World Trade Center and the Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of Cuba allowed participants to hear from representatives of the Cuban government, as well as Ward, who spoke on behalf of Gov. Hutchinson. The agenda included meetings held at the U.S. Embassy in Havana, which was reopened in 2015 after being closed in 1961 amid Cold War tensions. The delegation also visited the Special Economic Development Zone of Mariel, an area west of Havana that is intended for sustainable economic development through foreign investment.

“The trade mission to Cuba represented a good opportunity for UAPB to collaborate with Cuban agricultural universities, share agricultural technology and attract students to study in Arkansas,” Dr. Buckner said. “We were able to meet with officials from both universities and government agencies to discuss potential collaboration in fisheries/aquatic resource management and vegetable production.”

Dr. Lochmann said the visit provided a chance for the UAPB Aquaculture/Fisheries Center of Excellence to explore opportunities for collaborative research in aquaculture, as well as opportunities for educational exchanges of faculty members and students.

“Though the Cuban government is primarily interested in obtaining rice and poultry from Arkansas, there is great potential for the further development of the nation’s aquaculture industry,” she said. “The vast majority of Cuba’s domestic production and consumption is of freshwater fish, mainly carp and tilapia. Cuban aquaculture industry leaders have concluded that their native species are probably not good for aquaculture and are studying a large variety of different species that are cultured successfully in the U.S. and other countries.”

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