After Duties Started, Nogales Tomato Imports Rose In May

Published: Thursday, June 20, 2019 - 4:45pm
Updated: Friday, June 21, 2019 - 8:42am

After a nearly 18 percent duty was imposed on imported Mexican tomatoes in early May, some worried that imports would drop and prices would rise. That tariff went into effect after the U.S. Department of Commerce ended the 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico, which set floor prices and other importing rules.

In court documents, Mexican growers and importers warned of an early end to the tomato import season if the duties went into effect. An industry-sponsored study also predicted potentially dramatic price hikes.

But in Nogales, one of the most important sites for Mexican tomato imports, volume actually rose by roughly half a percent to 120.7 million pounds in May compared to the previous May, according to recent U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Border-wide they dropped just 3 percent to 256.7 million pounds over the same period.

That’s because many growers were expecting the duty to drop exports and raise prices, and they wanted to take advantage of that.

“What actually resulted were more growers and more volume crossing the border,” said Nogales produce distributor Jaime Chamberlain. He added that sale prices initially dropped after the tariffs went into effect but have since started stabilizing. Federal data back that up.

While the duties are in place, the previous price floors set by the suspension agreement are not, meaning Mexican growers are operating in a free market, plus the 17.56% tariff.

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