( File photo )

U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes in July showed gains in volume compared with a year ago but experienced declines in price.

According to trade data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes in July totaled $111.1 million, down 4% from $115.4 million in July 2018. By volume, U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes totaled 109,240 metric tons, up 2.7% from 106,270 metric tons a year ago in July.

A new tomato suspension agreement between Mexican tomato growers and the U.S. Commerce Department was signed Aug. 21 but does not become effective until at least Sept. 19. Importers of Mexican tomatoes have had to pay a 17.56% duty since May 7, the date the Department of Commerce withdrew from the previous suspension agreement with Mexican growers. That resulted in the resumption of a dumping investigation and the 17.56% duty.

From May through July, the USDA reported the volume of U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes were 383,000 metric tons, down 3.3% from 396,000 metric tons the same period a year ago. By value, U.S. imports of Mexican tomatoes from May through July totaled $352 million, down 16% from $419 million the same period a year ago.

Volume outlook

Jason Klinowski, agricultural and food law attorney at Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt LLC, said he expects that previous uncertainty around negotiations for a new tomato suspension agreement will have a small effect on Mexican tomato imports in the next few months. Klinowski has several clients that import Mexican tomatoes. 

“I think we are going to see some volume reduction just because of guys who were planning for a worst-case scenario, but I don’t know if it’s going to be enough to really move the needle or cause prices to really go higher,” Klinowski said Sept. 5. Some small and medium sized growers may cut back, but he speculated overall volume of Mexican tomato imports won’t be hurt significantly.

“We still have the Walmarts, the Kroger’s and others who are not reducing their (orders),” he said.