Despite a US trade embargo with Cuba, DairyAmerica has finalised two sales of skim milk powder to the Caribbean island, among the first sizeable sales of US dairy products to Cuba in more than 40 years.

Since October 2000, the US government has permitted limited sales of food to Cuba under certain conditions. Exporters who want to serve the market must go through a complex procedure to get a special license and sales must be cash-in-advance only. Nonetheless, US food sales to Cuba were approximately $325m last year.

"Cuba is a natural trading partner for us, and cannot continue to be ignored because of US policies," said Rich Lewis, chief operating office of DairyAmerica.

"Alimport, the nation's food import agency, is looking to buy more from the United States. Agency officials say Alimport could import 40,000-50,000 metric tons of US milk powder annually if all restrictions were removed," Lewis said.