( File photo )

As the high-stakes Department of Commerce dumping investigation continues on U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes, advocates for both U.S. and Mexican tomato growers are making their cases in the court of public opinion.

In a statement last week, growers of Mexican tomatoes said they recently submitted data to the U.S. Commerce Department that shows they are not dumping tomatoes into the U.S. 

Based on formulas outlined in a 1996 agreement that suspended an anti-dumping investigation, the growers are “confident” the Commerce Department will agree with their assessment, according to a news release from grower organizations in Mexico.

On July 15, the Florida Tomato Exchange countered with a statement that said Mexican growers should not “pre-judge” the anti-dumping Investigation.

“(Mexican tomato growers) conveniently forgot, however, to mention that the Commerce Department will now undertake a thorough review of that data to determine whether it is accurate, including an audit of Mexican company books, and whether the data submitted is consistent with the requirements of the U.S. anti-dumping law,” the group said in a news release.

“The investigation gives both Mexican and U.S. tomato growers their day in court,” the statement said. “We are not pre-judging the results and wouldn’t want anyone to do so.”

The Florida Tomato Exchange said that there is still a chance that a new suspension agreement will be reached before the anti-dumping investigation is completed.

“The domestic tomato industry’s message on this has been consistent: If there is a new agreement, it must eliminate the loopholes in the old agreement and have a more enforceable structure,” the group said. “The domestic industry remains open to a new suspension agreement, but if such an agreement isn’t possible, the anti-dumping investigation should run its full course.”

Industry sources earlier said the dumping investigation is expected to be concluded by the end of September, but the Department of Commerce has not yet set any date for it ruling.

The Commerce Department dropped the previous suspension agreement on May 7, triggering a new anti-dumping investigation and imposition of a 17.56% duty on Mexican tomato imports.

Imports off in May

Recent trade data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows that both U.S. import value and volume of Mexican tomatoes were off in May compared with May 2018.

The USDA said U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes were $127 million in May, down 22% from $162 million in May 2018. By volume, USDA said imports of Mexican tomatoes in May totaled 139,000 metric tons, down 11% from about 155,000 metric tons in May 2018.   

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