Tomato suspension case debated at Mexico convention

08/26/2012 11:55:00 PM
Fred Wilkinson

AMHPAC convention 2012Fred WilkinsonJake Jacobsen (from left), owner of Nogales, Ariz.-based Eagle Eye Produce, talks with Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, Nogales, and Nogales-based customs broker Luis Mayer Aug. 23 on the exposition floor during AMHPAC’s annual meeting in Guadalajara, Mexico. GUADALAJARA, Mexico — Mexico’s greenhouse tomato producers are working for peace but preparing for war.

While Mexican tomato industry representatives continue working with commerce officials to avoid a possible trade war resulting from Florida growers’ call to end the tomato suspension agreement, members of AMHPAC approved an assessment based a grower’s number of hectares to raise funds for legal fees in the case.

The vote took place Aug. 22 on the opening day of the annual convention of AMHPAC, the Mexican association of protected horticulture.

Eric Viramontes, AMHPAC director general and chief executive officer, said the marketplace has room for growers from all regions and that Florida’s effort distracted from a shared interest in growing U.S. tomato consumption.

“We would love not to fight,” Viramontes said Aug. 24.

He said scuttling the agreement could bring retaliatory action from Mexico.

In 2009, Mexico slapped retaliatory duties on U.S. shipments of apples, cherries, grapes, pears and other items after the Obama administration ended a pilot program for Mexican trucks in the U.S. The situation was resolved and tariffs scaled back in 2011.    

Citing unfair trade practices, the Maitland-based Florida Tomato Exchange filed documents in late June with the U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. International Trade Commission requesting withdrawal from the 1996 suspension agreement, an anti-dumping duty petition regulating a floor price for Mexican imports.

Commerce officials ruled Aug. 21 the agency it will take comments on the tomato suspension case until Sept. 4.

U.S. tomato interests had urged the Commerce Department to terminate the suspension agreement, with Florida growers saying they have been subject to unfair trade practices from Mexican tomato exporters for years.

Hot for peppers?

Uncertainty about the tomato market stemming from the suspension agreement controversy is leading some Mexican growers to move toward producing more peppers or other vegetable crops this season, said Fried de Shouwer, president of Greenhouse Produce Co. LLC, Vero Beach, Fla., which sources from greenhouses in several areas of Mexico.


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Elmer C. Mott    
Arcadia,Fl.  |  August, 27, 2012 at 10:04 AM

Talking about out sourcing. I don't think any other industry has been affected as much as the Ca. and Fl. vegetable growing industry. It has been done by our failure to address the issues of wage disparity and cultural practices. Those of us who farm in America are held to the strictest regulations concerning the use of fungicide ,insecticide, herbicide and fertilizer. In order for us to move our produce to the major suppliers we must have USDA INSPECTIONS and inspections done by independent labs and be certified by both. These are nothing less than third party audits of our operations. As a long term member of America's farming community I have seen numerous commodities slowly but surly go to Central America, Mexico, Canada and other nations. I hope we can address and resolve this issue before permanent damage is done to our disappearing farmers. Sincerely, Elmer C. Mott

"Pomodoro"    
California  |  August, 27, 2012 at 03:36 PM

I commend Mr. Mott for his comments. I trust the U.S. tomato industry would be in better health, too, if the US government funded domestic growers at 60% to develop hothouse cultures and provided US tomato growers with low interest production loans to grow tomatoes, fund food safety programs, etc., as does the Mexican government. And, why, if Mexican tomatoes are perceived as "superior quality", do they export 99% of their crop to the US annually? Mexico's population comsumes twice as many tomatoes per capita each year then its US counterparts yet they don't consume any of their own domestic product? The US tomato industry is merely asking for the "playing field to be level" and for all parties to compete equitably.

Fernando de Saracho jr.    
Nogales Az  |  August, 29, 2012 at 02:01 PM

Most food Items that are imported to the USA are safer than domestic supply due exactly because they are produced outside of this country; USA has far more recalls originating from food borne illness than that of imports because there are fewer auditors checking the safety of domestic food supply, you can think of a child left alone inside a candy factory. Mexico exports between 45 to 48% of total USA tomato consumption (United States International Trade commission - Investigation No. 332-350 USITC Publication 3959 Nov 2007). The Balance is produced mainly the US. Most of the comments that I read, and the conversations that I have with USA growers are focused on how to increase the difficulty for competition rather than how to make that flow of demand move freely along the supply chain. Why aren't we talking about how retailers could help the end consumer get a better price at their stores by lowering their prices when they could? Thus increasing tomato and other commodity consumption by this action, they are the bottle neck, retailers; Some farmers invest with the times, in technology, other stay in the gas ages, results speak for themselves. There's always olive oil salt & pepper! The public has the right to know where the food is coming from, we should start at that point, do a GAP comparison and let them decide. An impartial HD documentary would be nice to educate the unaware. Many of us learned from the best California farmers, my father was a tomato picker for S&H @ Gonzalez packing, then a grower in Mexico, we later shipped for Deardorff-Jackson. We learned from the best and then some. I have a lot of respect for these two companies, and any grower that works for the end consumer.

Pedro Borboa    
Culiacan  |  August, 30, 2012 at 11:53 AM

1) Mexicans eat Mexico grown tomatoes, under conditions that surpass the most strict standards set out by your government. 2) Most tomatoes exported have not been neither subsidized, nor government grants have been received to produce a world class product, there are few exceptions which are irrelevant due to the little number of hectares compared to the whole surface. 3) Growing technologies have been around for a long time, it has been up to the US grower not to embrace those technologies that would benefit from scarcer labor due to the specialization level required under such intensive conditions. 4) You are always welcome to visit us and see how we do things down here, if you have any advice to give us we would be glad to hear it, as we have heard some from people all over the world with the results that you already know. Best Regards

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