"The agreement as it is currently structured is a step forward," said Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, Maitland, Fla. Brown said the agreement's higher prices validate the contention of U.S. growers that they have been dumped on for some period of time by Mexican tomato imports. "We still feel very strongly that the cost of production is essential to determining what the correct reference price should be and we look forward in the future for Commerce to obtain that information and adjust the reference prices on that basis."
Martin Ley, vice president of Nogales, Ariz.-based Del Campo Supreme Inc. and spokesman for a consortium of Mexican tomato growers who negotiated the suspension agreement, said in a statement that those growers offered substantial concessions in negotiations over the past year to preserve the suspension agreement.
“Even though no dumping or injury to the U.S. industry was demonstrated by our competitors, over the last year our growers worked with our government to overhaul the whole Mexican industry, broaden the coverage and develop tough enforcement schemes," Ley said in the statement.
Ley said the new floor prices will impose hardships on the Mexican industry, but growers hope the agreement will bring long-term benefits.
"Our compromises are expressions of trust and good faith, the essential ingredients to any bilateral trade relationship, and we look forward to similar expressions of cooperation and good will as we head into the comment period," he said in the statement.
The effective date of any final agreement is projected to be March 4, according to a fact sheet provided by the Commerce Department.
The new reference prices for open-field and adapted-environment tomatoes are 31 cents per pound in the winter and 24.58 cents per pound in the summer, according to the fact sheet. For controlled-environment tomatoes, the price for winter tomatoes is 41 cents per pound, while the summer price for controlled-environment tomatoes is 32.51 cents per pound.
The agreement defines controlled environment tomatoes "as tomatoes grown in a fully-enclosed permanent aluminum or fixed steel structure clad in glass, impermeable plastic, or polycarbonate using automated irrigation and climate control, including heating and ventilation capabilities, in an artificial medium using hydroponic methods."
Specialty loose tomatoes have a reference price of 45 cents per pound for the winter and 35.68 cents per pound in the summer. Specialty packed tomatoes have a reference price of 59 cents per pound in the winter and 46.79 cents per pound in the summer. The agreement defines specialty tomatoes as grape, cherry, heirloom and cocktail tomatoes.