Tomatoes (copy)

Workers inventory tomatoes imported from Mexico at a Nogales-area warehouse in this photo from February 2016.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has determined that the domestic tomato industry is threatened by Mexican imports, keeping in place an agreement that was recently renegotiated to raise the minimum prices for imported tomatoes and implement stricter rules on inspections.

The 4-0 ruling issued last Friday by the USITC found that U.S. tomato producers are “threatened with material injury by reason of imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico that the U.S. Department of Commerce has determined are sold in the United States at less than fair value.”

In response to the ruling, the Nogales-based Fresh Produce Association reiterated its position that any advantage that Mexican tomatoes have is due to consumer and distributor preferences, rather than unfair business practices.

“Consumers prefer vine-ripened tomatoes, and this is why domestic gassed-green tomatoes continue to lose market share,” FPAA President Lance Jungmeyer said in a news release. “We are disappointed that the USITC failed to recognize this simple reality.”

The commission’s ruling came after the Florida Tomato Exchange filed a request in October to continue an investigation into whether Mexican producers have been “dumping” their product in the U.S. market at unfair prices.

The FTE made the request even after the United States and Mexico agreed on a draft version of a new Tomato Suspension Agreement in August, saying that Mexican growers had made it known that they planned to challenge the new deal. Mexican growers, however, insisted that they negotiated the deal in good faith and had “every intention of abiding with that agreement throughout its term.”

Now with the USITC’s ruling keeping the revised Tomato Suspension Agreement in place, the FPAA said in its news release that it “continues to work closely with its members to implement and fully comply with the new agreement.”

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