U.S., Mexico Strike Tentative Deal In Tomato Trade Tiff
After nearly 8 months of posturing following a formal request from U.S. tomato producers to withdraw a 16-year old antidumping petition and have the existing suspension agreement covering fresh tomato exports from Mexico terminated, it appears trade officials from both sides have come to terms.
Part of the proposed agreement, which covers imports of all fresh or chilled tomatoes of Mexican origin, except tomatoes that are for processing, involves raising the minimum sales price for Mexican tomatoes in the U.S. In addition, the proposal accounts for changes that have occurred in the tomato industry since the signing of the original agreement and increases, from one to four, the number of tomato type categories with established reference prices to better reflect the realities of the current tomato market.
Per a fact sheet provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce, new reference prices for
- “Open field and adapted environment” tomatoes are 31¢ per pound in the winter and 24.58¢ per pound in the summer.
- “Controlled environment” tomatoes would be 41¢ per pound in the winter and 32.51¢ per pound in the summer.
- “Specialty, loose” tomatoes would be 45¢s per pound in the winter and 35.68¢ per pound in the summer.
- “Specialty, packed” tomatoes would be 59¢ per pound in the winter and 46.79¢ per pound in the summer.
The winter and summer reference prices for all tomatoes are presently 21.6¢ per pound and 17.2¢ per pound, respectively.
After extensive consultations with the U.S. Department of Commerce, domestic tomato growers indicated tentative support for the revisions negotiated by the U.S. Government and Mexican growers. In response to the tentative agreement, Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, said, “The existing suspension agreement had serious flaws and injury was being felt by U.S. producers and their workers. We have been honored and humbled by the support we have received from agricultural commissioners and secretaries in a number of states, members of Congress, and representatives of the workers, most importantly the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, in the fight for fair trade.”
Brown continued, “Mexican growers and their government have tried to protect their interests with tremendous pressure on our government, threats to U.S. producers, and a well-funded lobbying and media campaign. The facts, however, were clear and could not be disputed. Mexican tomatoes were being sold in the U.S. market in rapidly increasing volumes at prices that did not reflect the cost of production.”
Edward Beckman, president of Certified Greenhouse Farmers, said, “It’s important to recognize that since tomato growers first raised concerns about unfair trade with Mexico16 years ago, the market has changed considerably. This new suspension agreement recognizes the changes and includes definitions to cover the evolution and diversification of the market. These provisions will protect consumer interests and promote the further development and diversification of the market while ensuring that growers receive a fair price for those products.”
The agreement will be open for public comment until February 11. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the effective date of any final agreement is projected to be March 4, 2013.