“The study is brought forth because we are concerned as U.S. distributors about the ability to continue to be able sell Mexican tomatoes with the tomato trade dispute that is going on between the U.S. and Mexico,” Jungmeyer said.
Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange, said he can’t imagine a scenario where Mexican tomatoes would be excluded from the U.S.
“If you make wild assumptions, which they do in their study, you get wild results,” Brown said. “Nothing in any of these issues would ever prevent Mexican product from entering the country. The issue is only the product entering the country under a free and fair-traded environment.”
Scaring the public with scarcity or food price spikes is unfortunate, Brown said.
“FPAA has been fairly consistent in taking extreme positions all the way through this issue, including threatening and intimidating the produce industry with trade wars, internationally decreed sanctions, all other kinds of things,” Brown said.
The scenario of Mexican tomatoes disappearing from U.S. grocery shelves is a real possibility, Jungmeyer said, if punitive or prohibitive antidumping measures are applied by the U.S.
Given that outcome, he said consumers could see prices double or more than double September through May.
Noting that the economic model would push prices more than $5 per-pound for some tomato varieties, Jungmeyer said the U.S. diet would suffer at a time when government agencies are urging greater produce consumption.
Jungmeyer told reporters that distributors of Mexican produce are fearful of antidumping duties on Mexican tomatoes.
“We feel (dumping charges) are unfounded. Growers haven’t been selling to the U.S. market for years by selling below the cost of production,” Jungmeyer said.
Jungmeyer said distributors suspect that if the tomato suspension agreement is terminated, as the Department of Commerce is contemplating, a new round anti-dumping investigations would begin shortly thereafter.
“If this is not renegotiated to the satisfaction of both the Department of Commerce and Mexican growers, it will put the United States and Mexico on a collision course that would have disruptions in trade all around,” he said.
Jungmeyer said he was not privy to how close the two sides are to a satisfactory solution or what revised minimum prices levels are being considered.
Kilbride said the U.S. and Mexico can’t let the trade dispute get in the way of their important trade relationship.