American employers harmed by decision to limit Mexican tomatoes

Up to 33,000 American jobs are threatened by a Department of Commerce decision that would have the double impact of increasing tomato prices for American consumers.

Tomato supplies stand to drop, with corresponding price increases for American consumers, as a result of Commerce’s notice of intent to withdraw from the Tomato Suspension Agreement, according to the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas.

Even in the conservative case of a 5% reduction in supplies of Mexican tomatoes, consumers would end up paying up to 25 cents more per pound at supermarkets, or up to $790 million more per year for tomatoes, according to a recent University of Arizona report.

In recent decades, America’s demand for vine-ripened tomatoes, tomatoes-on-the-vine, romas, cherry and grape tomatoes, organics and more has been increasingly filled by farms in Mexico, which has a climate that is particularly suited to tomatoes. The demand for vine-ripened Mexican tomatoes has built up a supply chain that supports over 33,000 U.S. jobs and nearly $3 billion in U.S. GDP.

Yet, in order to corner the market over their other competitors, a small group of wealthy tomato farmers from the politically connected Florida Tomato Exchange are pushing unreasonable changes to interstate commerce norms, according to the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas, in a recent letter to Commerce Sec. Ross.

“The truth appears to be that leaders of the Florida Tomato Exchange (FTE) are on a campaign to portray themselves as the victims to trade while leveraging U.S. trade law to corner the market and drive out competition,” said FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer.

Farmers from Florida continue to grow gassed-green tomatoes, an innovation from before World War II in which tomatoes are picked green, then artificially “de-greened” in gas rooms that have been injected with ethylene gas. These gassed tomatoes have lost consumer appeal to vine-ripened tomatoes grown in most other growing regions.

At the same time that Florida Tomato Exchange members claim harm from Mexican tomato imports, these very companies have been driving investments and partnerships in Mexico.

“It is beyond ironic that the growers which grow the largest percentage of Florida tomatoes also own and finance some of the largest growing operations in Mexico,” Jungmeyer said.

In its letter to the Department of Commerce, the FPAA encourages continuation of the Tomato Suspension Agreement, which prevents expensive duties on Mexican tomatoes and ensures continued supplies of the tomatoes that consumer prefer.

About the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas:

The FPAA is a nonprofit trade association headquartered in Nogales, Arizona, that represents over 100 U.S. member companies involved in growing, packing, sales and transportation of fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Mexico. The FPAA leverages the efforts of private companies and partner-associations to increase the consumption of fresh fruits and vegetable from Mexico.

Contact: Lance Jungmeyer (520) 287-2707

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