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Tomatoes and Berries: discord between Mexico and the USA

Mexico increased its exports of berries to the US by an average of 59 percent and its exports of saladette and ball tomato over nine years by 9 percent, leading Florida producers to press their government to restrict the access to these products through adjustments to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Exports of both fruits to that country totalled 2.74 billion dollars in 2016. In contrast, US production is stagnant.

According to Bosco de la Vega, president of the National Agricultural Council (CNA) in Mexico, this situation motivated production companies to demand government representatives get involved in this.

One of them is Reggie Brown, executive vice president of Florida Tomato Exchange producer group, who asserts that low labor costs in Mexico and pesticide standards are factors that play against production in the United States.

"I know people will say: if Mexico can make it cheaper, they should produce it. But there are small towns depending on this, and as an American, that's my first and foremost concern," Brown told Bloomberg Businessweek.

His stance has heated the political campaign for the upcoming elections in that state, boosting Adam Putnam, a Republican candidate who now serves as Commissioner of Agriculture and blames Mexico for flooding the US market with cheap products.

Despite this struggle, the treaty will continue to be negotiated, according to analysts from Merrill Lynch. 

"We believe that there is a low probability that the United States will exit the NAFTA, given the benefits received by the producers in that country and the strong lobbying power of some beneficiaries of the agreement in the United States," the financial group said in a statement.

Their vision coincides with a letter sent on August 16 by agricultural producers from the United States, Mexico and Canada to their representatives in the negotiations. The letter said that the agricultural sector would suffer greatly from any disruption to trade relations developed during the last 23 years.

"The agricultural productivity is growing faster than domestic demand. Farmers in Canada, Mexico and the United States depend on the export markets to maintain prices and profits," stated the leaders of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, American Farm Bureau Federation, and the CNA of Mexico.

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