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Fresh Produce Association of the Americas:

"Anti-dumping duties not the answer to Florida tomato growers’ woes"

Anti-dumping duties won't fix what ails the Florida tomato industry. That was the sentiment of public comments from the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA), responding to the Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE), which seeks to impose duties of 20.9 percent on most Mexican tomato imports.

"FTE's comments are more notable for what they did not address than for the rehash of its weak and unsupported attempt to justify its termination request," according to the filing from FPAA.

FPAA notes that FTE provides no explanation or facts as to why an anti-dumping order will do a better job than the 2019 Suspension Agreement to address any alleged problems. FPAA believes that abandoning the Reference Price under the 2019 Suspension Agreement and imposing anti-dumping duties will deprive the U.S. tomato market of vine-ripe tomato varieties that the domestic industry does not produce and will destabilize the U.S. tomato market because of increased volatility in pricing.

FPAA says imposing anti-dumping duties will not:

  • Provide the additional agricultural labor needed by domestic tomato growers.
  • Prevent catastrophic hurricanes/freezes that endanger domestic crops, or stop the oceans from rising that are raising the salinity of domestic growing fields.
  • Improve the FTE members' poor soil and pest conditions.
  • Stem the increasing pressure of urbanization and suburbanization encroaching on farmland.

In the filings, the gas-green tomato organization claimed that Mexican competition was the sole reason that Florida producers such as Ag-Mart were sending their grape tomato production to Mexico.

In addition to the lack of agricultural labor available in Florida, Ag-Mart's decision to shift grape production out of Florida to Mexico highlights other issues (extreme weather, poor soil/ pest conditions, urban development, insurance, etc.) that hamstring the Florida tomato growers' ability to compete. Ag-Mart's other U.S. growing locations in New Jersey and North Carolina grow tomatoes in different seasons than Florida and don't face these other issues to the same degree.

"Ag-Mart recognized that shifting grape tomato production from Florida to Mexico also makes sense because growing grape tomatoes in Mexico using protected agriculture (shade houses) is better than growing grape tomatoes in Florida in open fields because it results in better, more consistent quality tomatoes and higher yields," said the FPAA.

FPAA noted that FTE ignored the increased volatility of the U.S. tomato market if anti-dumping duties are imposed, compared with the stability provided by the floor Reference Price under the suspension agreement. Importers will have to deal with lengthy risks of anti-dumping duties increasing retroactively and paying increased amounts of collateral for surety bonds to cover anti-dumping duty entries. This uncertainty about the anti-dumping duty liability will be an accelerant to an increasingly volatile tomato market if the Reference Price system is terminated.

For more information:
Lance Jungmeyer
Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
[email protected]

Allison Moore
Fresh Produce Association of the Americas
[email protected]

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