( File photo )

CHICAGO — The Mexican apple crop is down for 2018, which is good news for U.S. apple exporters.

However, one leading Mexican fruit marketer said U.S. exporters could be facing the headwinds of a slumping economy and uncertain trade relations between the two countries.

Speaking about the Mexican apple outlook, Leighton Romney, with grower-importer Paquime Group in Chihuahua, Mexico, addressed the Aug. 24 session of the U.S. Apple Crop Outlook and Marketing Conference

In 2018, the Mexican crop suffered freeze damage and final production may total about 325,000 metric tons, or about 16.25 million boxes, he said.

That is down about 19% from average crop levels, Romney said, and even so the 16 million carton level could be on the high side of what is actually harvested.

Mexico imports more apples than it produces, and for 2018-19 Romney said Mexico will need to import about 22.75 million cartons of apples to meet demand.

Of total apples sold in Mexico, the U.S. supplies about 48% and the Mexico will provide 42%. Chile provides limited volume, he said.


Tariff trouble

U.S. apple exports to Mexico typically don’t begin until later in the year, after a period of mandated cold storage treatment for pests. When U.S. exports do begin, a 20% retaliatory tariff on U.S. apples could still be in place.

There are other barriers that could slow U.S. apple shipments to Mexico, he said.

Though North American Free Trade Agreement talks between the U.S. and Mexico appear promising for an agreement by the end of August, it is not known how long those tariffs will persist.

In addition, Romney said Mexican consumers are facing higher inflation this year, making it difficult to purchases non-essential items.

“We have struggled to sell our peach crop even though we only had 75% of a crop,” he said.

“Apples are expensive, and money is tight.”

Lower-priced tropical fruit, notably mangoes and bananas, will provide consumers with cheaper alternatives, Romney said.

Mexican consumers eat about double the volume of golden delicious compared to their consumption of red delicious, he said. Gala consumption is on the rise.