The Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA) says it is disappointed that Florida tomato growers have rejected the most recent proposal from Mexican growers "before the ink has dried on the document".
The Mexican growers submitted a new proposal to Commerce on May 22, after the U.S. withdrew from the Mexican Tomato Suspension Agreement on May 7.
It builds on the strongest provisions of both the previous agreement and proposals from earlier negotiation rounds, the FPPA said.
FPAA president Lance Jungmeyer said Florida's immediate refusal implies they have "no intention of dealing in good faith".
"Our fear is that they are looking for total control of every aspect of the tomato supply chain and that there will be no appeasing them until they manipulate the U.S. government into getting a monopoly of the U.S. tomato market.
Florida tomato growers' "lack of innovation"
“The Florida claims of unfair trading are unfounded, and the fact that they have lost market share is largely due to the Florida tomato growers' lack of innovation compared to producers in the rest of the world."
"They continue to push their political agenda for maximum protectionist measures at the expense of other U.S. companies and consumers, including giving distinct advantage to their repacking business model, which is unnecessary for imported vine-ripe tomatoes because they are consumer ready.”
He said that the duties, cash deposits and "punitive nature" of the requirements are harming U.S. importers.
U.S. companies have racked up over US$100,000 apiece in duties since May 7, he said.
Many U.S. food distribution companies have already lost numerous contracts with customers and suppliers, he added.
Timely resolution 'in U.S.'s best interests'
A timely resolution to a new trade agreement is in the best interests of U.S. companies and shoppers, he said.
In the meantime, duties pile up and some supermarkets have threadbare tomato displays because of supply chain uncertainty.
“Punitive duties are amassing that will amount to millions of dollars", he said. These will effectively be paid for by the American public, he added.
Consumers are finding their favorite vine-ripened tomatoes gone from some supermarkets, he said.
“It is time to end the tomato dispute and remove this tax on American consumers by reaching a sensible agreement.”
The U.S. withdrew from the Mexican Tomato Suspension Agreement on May 7.