( The Packer )

India has again delayed retaliatory tariffs on U.S. apples.

While apple industry sources would rather the tariffs be never rather than late, the latest delay from Nov. 2 to the new date of Dec. 17 is welcome.

First scheduled to take effect in June, the 25% retaliatory tariff on apples — in response to Trump administration tariffs on imports of steel and aluminum from India — was postponed until Aug. 4, then put off to Sept. 18, later delayed to Nov. 2 and now pushed back until mid-December.

“The two countries continue to dialogue about potential solutions, and hopefully (the retaliatory tariffs) will be completely taken off the table by Dec. 17,” said Mark Powers, president of the Northwest Horticultural Council, Yakima, Wash.

India already has a 50% tariff on U.S. apple, but despite that, the country was the No. 2 two export market for apple exports in 2017-18 season.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that, from January through September, India was the second-largest export market for U.S. apples, In that period, India imported $152 million in U.S. apples, up 93% from $78.9 million the same period a year ago.

Powers said the delay helps but doesn’t add much certainty to the long-term export outlook to India,.

However, he noted a reduced apple crop in Washington state will ease some of the pressure to move fruit to export markets.

The current estimate for the 2018 Washington fresh crop is 116.8 million cartons, down from earlier estimates of 131 million carton, according to the Washington State Tree Fruit Association. An updated estimate will be released by mid-November.