US food exports to Cuba flatline despite trade fair's buoyant tone, as island looks elsewhere

Brands like Kellogg's, Gatorade, Hormel and Hunt are on display at a Havana exposition center as representatives hawk some of the few U.S. products that can legally be exported to Cuba.

But cold numbers belie the enthusiasm on the convention center floor. Cuban purchases of U.S. goods have plunged as the island turns to countries like China, Brazil, Vietnam and Venezuela, which offer cheaper deals, long-term credits and less hassle over payment and shipping.

Figures from a group led by U.S.-Cuba trade analyst John Kavulich show U.S. sales of food and agricultural commodities to Cuba rose from $138 million in 2001 to a peak of $710 million in 2008. That plummeted to almost half that last year at $358 million.