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Savage grabs key to Cuban importing

The Cuban government agency responsible for importing food and agricultural products from the United States has selected A.R. Savage & Son as its shipping agent for goods sent from Tampa Bay.

The agreement formalizes the business relationship between Alimport and A.R. Savage of Tampa, which has handled five shipments of the animal feed supplement dicalcium phosphate from Port Manatee and private docks to Cuba last year, according to Arthur Savage, chief executive of the company.

Although trade with Cuba remains limited, the designation may give Savage the inside track if it expands over time.

Savage advocates loosening U.S. trade restrictions on Cuba. He heads a Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce task force to inform business leaders about opportunities and push for direct ship service between Tampa and the island nation.

He also has a long family relationship with Cuba. His great-great grandfather, James A. McKay, came to Tampa from Scotland and started shipping cattle to Cuba. The business passed to cousins in the Lykes family, which expanded Lykes Lines into a shipping giant.

Savage's cousin, John Parke Wright IV, has shipped cattle to Cuba and represents Savage's business there.

"Even with the horrendous restrictions, (Cuba trade) is something having a good impact on the area and in the future, it will have a tremendous impact," said Savage. "You've got a country that needs to be largely rebuilt or replaced once (U.S.) investment is allowed down there."