Seeking an 11th-hour deal that would preserve a revised tomato suspension agreement with the Commerce Department, Mexican tomato growers have submitted a proposal.
The Florida Tomato Exchange said the proposal is welcomed, and that it contains some “useful suggestions” on how to prevent circumvention of the suspension agreement by Mexican producers.
U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said earlier this year that the U.S. would end the current suspension agreement between the two countries on May 7. That would lead to a resumption of an anti-dumping investigation that could result in steep duties on Mexican tomatoes.
The proposal aims to replace the existing suspension agreement, which Mexican tomato growers say include several concessions. The proposal, according to a news release, includes the following:
- Price increases ranging from 6% to 34%, including eliminating differences between summer and winter prices, and establishing a higher price for organic specialty tomatoes;
- Requirements that loads of Mexican tomatoes with more than 35% condition defects will be returned to Mexico at the grower’s expense;
- Provisions making exports under a different signatory number other than one’s own a violation of the agreement;
- No adjustments can be made under the reference price;
- Provisions to block unintended exports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico and better manage inventory levels in the U.S.;
- A stronger ability for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to enforce the agreement under the Perishable Agricultural Commodity Act by giving the Commerce Department all necessary grower documents to prove PACA violations;
- Penalties for intentional violations of the agreement by growers or selling agents; and
- Commitments by Mexican growers to help facilitate efforts by an interagency task force to enforce the agreement, including on-site and video verifications with independent auditors.
“Our goal from the beginning of the renegotiation process has been to focus on enforcement even though there is no evidence of circumvention of the agreement,” Oscar Woltman, president of AMHPAC, the largest Mexican growers association, said in the release.
The proposals focus on enforcing the arrival condition of the first sale, which is what is covered by the antidumping law, Rosario Beltran of Confederación de Asociaciones Agrícolas del Estado de Sinaloa A.C., said in the release.
“We have said all along we prefer an agreement over litigation, but only if it is fair,” Salvatore Garcia, President of Consejo Agrícola de Baja California A.C., said in the release.
The Florida Tomato Committee said it will give input to the Commerce Department on the latest proposal.
“We will be providing comments to the Commerce Department on the Mexican proposal along with ideas on how to improve the earlier Commerce Department proposal from October 2018,” according to a statement from the committee. “We are hopeful this will lead to negotiations between the Mexican growers and the Commerce Department for a new suspension agreement that will finally meet the statutory requirement to eliminate completely the injurious effects of unfairly traded tomatoes.”