The United States will face a shortage of tomatoes starting in 15 days if it does not lift a 17.5% tariff on Mexican tomato imports, according to a growers’ association.
Alfredo Díaz, director of the Mexican Protected Horticulture Association, told Milenio yesterday that Mexican producers are struggling to absorb the cost of the tariffs. He said the tariff has forced some small producers to lower their export volumes, while for the moment most medium and large producers are still exporting at full volume.
“Pretty soon, there will be a shortage in the United States if this goes on,” he said. “In about 15 days, we’ll start to notice supply going down, and that will be reflected in higher prices.”
Two weeks ago, Mexican tomato producers sued the U.S. Department of Commerce in the U.S. Court of International Trade in New York. The lawsuit requests an injunction suspending the tariff and the investigation of Mexican producers for dumping, or selling products below their production costs.
Díaz said the two sides finished making their arguments last Friday and that a ruling could come at any time.
He added that whatever the court rules, Mexican tomato growers are ready to negotiate with U.S. trade officials and growers’ associations.
“We made another offer last week and we are waiting for them to look at it so we can negotiate,” he said. “What they told us is that the U.S. is negotiating with China about other issues right now, so we’re still waiting for them to call us.”
The Department of Commerce imposed tariffs on Mexican tomatoes on May 7 after allowing a six-year-old agreement that suspended anti-dumping investigations to expire. The U.S. withdrawal from the agreement was largely in response to complaints from Florida tomato growers, who say they struggle to compete with Mexican imports.
Mexico’s share of the U.S. tomato market grew from 32% in 1996 to 56% in 2017, while U.S. farmers produced 40% of tomatoes consumed in the country in 2017.