I feel compelled to respond to disappointing comments about the renegotiation of the Tomato Suspension Agreement made by Michael Schadler of the Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE) in the March 4 issue of The Packer. As the president of the largest Mexican grower associations involved in these negotiations for over one year, I must set the record straight.
Contrary to Mr. Schadler’s assertions, in the past year the Mexican growers have had a constructive dialogue with the U.S. Commerce Department to resolve open issues impacting the future of the suspension agreement. We are also aware that the present agreement can have improvements and therefore have made several positive proposals in that direction.
We have submitted at least five different proposals and several clarifications to the department. We have also submitted thousands of pages of data and other information in support of our proposals that are all available for FTE’s review.
It is our understanding that Commerce consulted with the Florida growers and that FTE has rejected each one of our proposals.
Instead, FTE continues to insist, as it did in a November 2017 letter to the department, that the agreement’s reference price should be extended downstream beyond the first sale to an unaffiliated party in the U.S.
We understand that proposal is beyond the scope of the antidumping law and would turn the entire market for fresh produce in the U.S. on its head.
We highly doubt that the Commerce Department has kept the Florida growers in the dark about the specifics of our proposals, which focus on tightening enforcement of the agreement on both sides of the border.
Beyond this, many Mexican growers in my association and other associations have had numerous conversations with Florida growers who are not a party to the agreement, about the willingness of the Mexican growers to negotiate and agree to numerous enforcement mechanisms.
We sent our latest, very strong proposal to Commerce in December but have not heard back. While we are greatly disappointed in Commerce’s decision last month to withdraw from that agreement, we continue to work with the department to resolve this matter in the best interests of all parties by the May 7 deadline.
I urge Mr. Schadler and the FTE to work with the Commerce Department to resolve this dispute in a manner that best serves all parties. In the end, the biggest loser in this dispute will be U.S. consumers.
Oscar Woltman, president
Asociación Mexicana de Horticultura Protegida AC (AMHPAC)