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News and insight for North America's fresh produce buyers
Gill McShane

BY GILL McSHANE

Wal-Mart backs Mexican tomato deal

A growing number of industry leaders are concerned that a tomato trade war could create a major dispute between the US and Mexico

Wal-Mart backs Mexican tomato deal

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US retail giant Wal-Mart, the US Chamber of Commerce, the US National Restaurant Association, and nearly a dozen meat, dairy and poultry producers’ organisations have called on the Obama Administration to continue the long-standing agreement that allows Mexican tomatoes access to the US market.

The influential group of businesses, agricultural and food industry organisations warn that special interest efforts to abolish a 16-year US tomato agreement with Mexico could lead to a trade war, which they claim would cost the US economy billions of dollars in exports and tens of thousands of jobs, according to a press release from the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas (FPAA).

“Termination of the tomatoes agreement will benefit no one and will lead only to uncertainty and unpredictability in the market,” Wal-Mart officials wrote in a letter to the US Department of Commerce.

The US Chamber of Commerce has also written to Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca M Blank supporting continuation of the tomato agreement.

“A potential trade disruption with Mexico could have a devastating impact on US farmers, manufacturers, and service providers and their employees who collectively export hundreds of billions of dollars in goods and services annually to Mexico,” it said.

The US Department of Commerce currently is reviewing the trade agreement in response to Florida tomato growers calling for the of end the pact that has governed the price of imported Mexican vine-ripened tomatoes since 1996.

FPAA claims Florida growers are trying to circumvent the legal requirements of the agreement by demanding that it be terminated immediately.

“They are hoping that the administration will bow to political pressure during a close election instead of following the provisions of the agreement,” FPAA said.

The association believes the agreement has also allowed consumers greater tomato selections, particularly in winter months when the vine-ripened Mexican tomatoes are available in US stores.

The National Restaurant Association, the leading business organisation for the restaurant and food service industry, is also backing the cause of Mexican suppliers.

“Unpredictable, and possibly higher tomato prices could negatively impact industry operations,” it explained.

The US food and restaurant industry accounts for more than one-third of all the tomatoes consumed in America, according to the trade group.

Agricultural groups representing meat, dairy and poultry producers claim they are concerned about impact of a trade war on jobs and their industries.

“The $100 billion US produce market is now globally integrated, and up to $7 billion of the industry is comprised of fruits and vegetables from Mexico, affecting tens of thousands of US workers,” Raul M Grijalva (D-AZ) wrote in a letter to the Commerce Department.

“Ending this agreement will put people out of work, reduce the variety and quality of tomatoes available to consumers and hurt all Americans by raising prices at the supermarket check-out line.”

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