Ag News

U.S., Mexico reach agreement on fresh tomatoes

On Aug. 20, the U.S. Department of Commerce reached a draft agreement with Mexican tomato growers to suspend the ongoing antidumping investigation of fresh tomatoes from Mexico, ensuring that the U.S. domestic tomato industry will be protected from unfair trade.

The draft suspension agreement has enforcement provisions that eliminate the adverse effects of imported Mexican tomatoes, as well as price suppression and undercutting. The draft agreement sets reference prices for rounds and romas at $0.31/lb., stem-on tomatoes at $0.46/lb., tomatoes on the vine at $0.50/lb., specialty loose tomatoes at $0.49/lb., and specialty packed tomatoes at $0.59/lb., with organic tomatoes priced 40% higher than non-organics, the department said.

The draft agreement closes loopholes from past suspension agreements that permitted sales below the reference prices and includes a new inspection mechanism to prevent the importation of low-quality, poor-condition tomatoes from Mexico, which can have price suppressive effects in the market. In addition, the draft agreement allows the Commerce Department to audit up to 80 Mexican tomato producers per quarter, or more with good cause.

The statute requires a 30-day notice period after the Aug. 21 initialing of the draft agreement. At that point, on September 19, the Commerce Department and the Mexican growers could sign a final agreement. If this occurs, the department will suspend the ongoing AD investigation without issuing a final determination.

The draft agreement stems from a 2018 request from the Florida Tomato Exchange that the Commerce Department terminate the 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico. On Feb. 6, the department notified Mexican officials that it would withdraw from the 2013 Suspension Agreement. On May 7, the 2013 Suspension Agreement was officially terminated and the Commerce Department continued its AD investigation on imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico.