Florida's ag commissioner calls to end tomato suspension agreement
Florida's commissioner of agriculture Adam Putnam has urged the national government to terminate a tomato suspension agreement, which was intended to prevent price undercutting from foreign suppliers.
Putnam said the measure had failed to protect his state's tomato industry, sending a letter to acting secretary of commerce Rebecca Blank to accept the industry's calls for withdrawal of the 1996 antidumping petition and to withdraw from the existing suspension agreement.
"Gone unrecognized by new producers in Mexico and unenforced by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the 2008 Suspension Agreement has done little to protect Florida’s tomato growers from unfair competition," he said.
"Tomato imports reached roughly US$1.8 billion last year, three times the value they were when the petition was originally filed in 1996; yet, there has been virtually no change in the underlying reference price in the suspension agreement.
"Already suffering from weak demand in a difficult economy, Florida’s tomato growers cannot compete in a market flooded by unprecedented imports of tomatoes from Mexico at prices well below the cost of production."
The U.S. government has further opened up the market to competition recently, with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) giving the green light to tomato imports from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).