(UPDATED COVERAGE, July 19) Organizations representing Mexican tomato growers say that if a 16-year suspension agreement between the U.S. and Mexico is lifted, a trade war that would hurt consumers would be the result.

In June, The Maitland-based Florida Tomato Committee filed documents with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission requesting withdrawal from a 1996 anti-dumping duty petition.

Withdrawing the anti-dumping petition would end the current suspension agreement, which sets a floor price for Mexican tomatoes exported to the U.S. The current suspension agreement is the third one put in place since the 1996 petition. 

On July 16, a joint press release from several organizations representing Mexican shippers criticized Florida’s decision, saying the suspension agreement works well.

“Tomato growers across Mexico are united in their opposition to efforts by some U.S tomato growers to bring down the agreement that has brought stability to the market for sixteen years,” according to the statement from CAADES Sinaloa, A.C.; Consejo Agrícola de Baja California, A.C.; Asociación Mexicana de Horticultura Protegida, A.C. (AMHPAC); Union Agricola Regional de Sonora Productores de Hortalizas Frutas y Legumbres; Confederacion Nacional de Productores de Hortalizas; and Mexico’s Sistema Producto Tomate.

Messages left with Mexican importers and officials were not returned.

Rosario Beltran, chairman of CAADES’ Commission for Research and Defense of Horticultural products, said in the release that lifting the suspension agreement would be bad for the U.S. and Mexico.

“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.”

Florida tomato officials and shippers claim that Mexican growers ship product at below production cost, threatening the existence of the Florida tomato industry.

Reggie Brown, executive vice president of the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange, said that in requesting repeal of the suspension agreement, Florida growers were not violating the spirit or letter of the original law.

“We are part of a coalition that supported the original anti-dumping petition, and we are simply exercising out rights under U.S. trade law,” he said. “The suspension agreement is primarily in Mexican growers’ interests.”

As of July 18, Brown had not heard from the government on the status of the Florida industry’s request.

In a release from the Nogales, Ariz.-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Lance Jungmeyer, the group’s president, said Mexico and Florida need to consider the damage that could result from a full-blown trade war.

“Tomatoes are the No. 1 food export item from Mexico to the United States,” Jungmeyer said. “In this era of global trade, the U.S. government should not put up a trade barrier with Mexico, our nation’s No. 2 overall trading partner.In the end, consumers will only end up paying more for tomatoes.”