As efforts to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement plod along, avocado importers generally are supportive of the pact, though some feel it could use some tweaking.
“We believe it should remain as it is,” said Phil Henry, president of Henry Avocado Corp., Escondido, Calif.
“The relationship between Mexico and the U.S. has been very good and beneficial for everyone — for consumers, especially,” he said.
Mission Produce Inc., Oxnard, Calif., is one of 11 members of The Produce Coalition for NAFTA, said Robb Bertels, Mission’s vice president of sales and marketing,
The coalition issued a statement in which Steve Barnard, Mission’s president and CEO, pointed out that U.S. consumption of avocados has increased by nearly five times since the U.S. border opened to Mexican imports.
“Regardless of growing regions, it’s a win-win for everyone who has contributed to increasing demand driven by a consistent 12-month supply,” he said.
The agreement isn’t broken, Bertels said, “so it doesn’t really need to be fixed.”
Giovanni Cavaletto, vice president of sourcing for Index Fresh Inc., Riverside, Calif., said NAFTA, which took effect in 1994, has been “hugely beneficial,” but he added that anything that’s more than 20 years old might need some updating.
“It’s probably worth going back in and looking at some of the mechanics of the law,” he said. “A lot of things have changed.”
For example, he said the market has grown from 400 million pounds of avocados to 2.5 billion pounds, and e-commerce has become a common means of buying and selling the fruit.
“It’s been wonderful to watch the economic growth that all three countries have benefited from for the last 20 years,” he added.
The Washington, D.C.-based United Fresh Produce Association issued a statement saying that the NAFTA era has seen “important growth in the fruit and vegetable industry to meet consumer demand.”
But the statement added, “There are certainly specific challenges within fresh produce that NAFTA modernization can aggressively address, so we are pleased that this opportunity has been realized by the administration.”
Tom Nassif, president and CEO of Irvine, Calif.-based Western Growers said in a statement that to encourage enhanced competition, “We ask the Trump administration to work with our North American trading partners to further work on science-based standards, harmonize sanitary and phytosanitary standards and eliminate other non-tariff trade barriers.”
The next round of negotiations is set for Nov. 17-21 in Mexico City.