Mexican growers condemn ‘protectionist’ U.S. tomato industry actions
Mexican growers have expressed disappointment with attempts from Florida’s tomato industry to bring down a bilateral trade agreement that has been in place since 1996.
A group representing the country’s tomato industry sent a letter ‘decreeing protectionist action’ from the state’s growers, signed off by the Confederation of Agricultural Associations of the State of Sinaloa (CAADE); the Baja California Agricultural Council; the Mexican Protected Horticulture Association (AMHPAC); the Sonora Regional Agricultural Union of Vegetable, Tomato and Legume Growers; the National Confederation of Vegetable Growers; and Mexico’s Tomato Product System (SPT).
The letter comes after the Florida Tomato Exchange made a request in June to the U.S. Department of Commerce to terminate the tomato suspension agreement with Mexico; a move that has also been backed by the state’s agricultural commissioner Adam Putnam.
CAADE Commission for Research and Defense of Horticultural Products (CIDH) chairman Rosario Beltran, said the agreement has worked well for 16 years, bringing stability to the market and settling one of the largest trade disputes between the two countries.
“If these Florida growers are successful in reigniting this trade war all over again, it will have an enormous negative impact on industries on both sides of the border and prices will increase significantly for U.S. consumers.”
CIDH president Mario Robles highlighted the agreement had built-in mechanisms to address the concerns shown by Florida’s growers.
“If Florida or other U.S. growers had these concerns, why didn’t they avail themselves of any of these opportunities?
“Why are they instead pursuing termination? One reason – they just want to use political pressure to start a new antidumping investigation and demand protection from fair competition.
“Just as it did 16 years ago, Florida is trying to hijack the proceeding in the middle of a U.S. Presidential election, starting a trade war with Mexico and demanding a tax on U.S. consumers in the process.”
The existing agreement sets a minimum price set by the Department of Commerce, under which Mexican growers agree not to sell in the U.S. market. The group highlights the deal was renegotiated and renewed in 2002 and 2008.
“The agreement is working for everyone – U.S. growers, Mexican growers and U.S. consumers, who otherwise would have been the victims of arbitrary price increases and suffered at the supermarket check-out line,” added SPT chairman Manuel Cazares.
The Baja California Agricultural Council’s Manuel Valladolid said the economic pressures cited by Florida’s tomato growers were “their own doing”.
“Instead of innovating and evolving, they rely on outdated technology and grow tomato varieties no longer popular with U.S. consumers.”
His comments were echoed by AMHPAC president Eric Viramontes.
“Instead, they continue to seek government protection to compensate for their decisions not to innovate and diversify. This protection will be in the form of an added tax at the grocery store for all U.S. tomato consumers.”