Walmart, Produce Importers Worry About Draft Mexican Tomato Deal

Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2019 - 5:58pm
Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Workers sort through tomatoes at a packing plant in southern Sonora, Mexico.

The draft deal that may end the months-long standoff over imported Mexican tomatoes is raising concerns among southern Arizona produce importers, as well as a major U.S. retailer.

That deal — which the U.S. Department of Commerce and Mexican growers initialed in August — would raise the floor price of tomatoes, as well as limit the ability of buyers to be compensated for damaged loads. It would also significantly increase border inspections.

“Massive. It’s a massive increase in scale,” Scott Vandervoet, board chair of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, said of the additional inspections. They could spell border bottlenecks, as well as tens of millions of dollars in warehouse expansions and other costs that consumers could ultimately bear, according to Vandervoet.

Walmart calls the new inspection requirements “overly burdensome” given what the nation’s largest retailer called Mexican tomatoes’ “high quality and low failure rate,” in a recent filing.

Commerce defended the inspections and other parts of the deal as necessary to prevent downward pressure on prices, in its own August filing.

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