This fruit or vegetable — depending on how you look at it — has garnered a lot of attention recently. Actually, that’s really not accurate. It seems disputes over imports, specifically tomato imports from Mexico, never fully go away. Recently, the talk has been about a formal request from U.S. tomato growers to withdraw a 16-year-old antidumping petition and terminate an existing suspension agreement that covers fresh tomato exports from Mexico.
To date, U.S. growers are showing support for a revised suspension agreement and it appears trade officials from both sides have reached an agreement.
According to a recent article on GrowingProduce.com, a portion of the proposed agreement includes raising the minimum prices for Mexican tomatoes in the U.S. It is important to note that the agreement covers imports of all fresh or chilled tomatoes of Mexican origin, except tomatoes that are for processing. (Additional details regarding the proposed agreement can be read at http://bit.ly/X2P0jd.)
It was just the week before the agreement was reached, however, that the president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Lance Jungmeyer, said that we are approaching a “tomato cliff.” Specifically, he said that if a deal to continue the tomato suspension agreement wasn’t reached, U.S. consumers will pay significantly more for tomatoes.
“In three of the last five winter growing seasons, Florida has been hit by hurricanes or freezes that seriously hurt tomato supply,” Jungmeyer said. “Aside from Mexico, Florida is the only viable option for winter tomatoes.” (Go to http://bit.ly/WlQRj2 to read the full story.)
Recently, I had a chance to talk with Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, about this situation, and he said the Sunshine State has been shipping close to 50 million boxes of winter green tomatoes each year, despite a decline in acreage. “The varieties and the technologies were such that the yields were still adequate even with the reduction in acreage,” he said. “In today’s reality, we have a stable supply in Florida.”
Some Angry Growers
The comments from Jungmeyer, however, did not go without response. In fact, one person responded to the article by saying: “If U.S. tomato growers did not have to ‘compete’ with ‘unfair trade’ practices and were paid a ‘fair’ (profitable) price at the wholesale level, they ‘will’ respond by producing more tomatoes for the off-season demand by expanding greenhouse or high tunnel practices. We do not need to rely on … Mexican imports to fill this demand.”
Another comment simply said that imports are putting U.S. growers out of business. There were several other comments, but I think these two adequately summarized the situation.
As we wanted to get your thoughts about the proposed resolution, a poll question was posed in our Enewsletter and on our website, asking: What do you think of the proposed U.S., Mexico tomato trade agreement? The response wasn’t overhelming in favor of the agreement. About 60% said it is a good deal while 40% said we need to return to the drawing board.
It is critical that we have a solid U.S.-based food supply and that includes the sale of tomatoes that are not hampered by imports sold in the U.S. at prices that don’t reflect the cost of production.
So if 40% don’t think the proposed agreement will work, then what will? Send me an email detailing your plan of action.