Importers Set To Pay Duties As U.S. Scraps Tomato Deal

Published: Tuesday, May 7, 2019 - 5:56pm
Updated: Wednesday, May 8, 2019 - 2:08pm
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Murphy Woodhouse/KJZZ
Workers sort through tomatoes at a packing plant in southern Sonora, Mexico.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Commerce terminated the agreement governing imports of fresh Mexican tomatoes.

While the U.S. has scrapped the deal, known as the Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico, negotiations between the department and U.S. and Mexican tomato growers are ongoing. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said he was “optimistic” there could still be a “negotiated settlement,” in a release Tuesday afternoon.

Import industry representatives expect customs officials in Nogales and other port cities to start collecting a nearly 18 percent percent duty on tomato imports on Wednesday.

“With the imposition of duties, we could see prices rise 40 to 85 percent,” said Lance Jungmeyer, president of the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA). He was referencing a recent FPAA-commissioned study of possible consumer impacts of duties.

But importers and Mexican growers would also be in a tight spot. Jungmeyer said covering the duties, even though they could eventually be paid back, is a significant cost, especially for smaller companies.

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