Lemons will be one of the top subjects on the agenda when Argentine president Mauricio Macri meets with his US counterpart in Washington on Thursday for trade talks.
Last December, outgoing president Barack Obama announced plans to lift a 16-year ban on lemon imports from north western Argentina but this was subsequently delayed by President Trump in the face of strong protests from Californian growers, first by a period of 30 days and then 60.
“The main reason we’re against imports of Argentine lemons is plant health. The California citrus industry is the only disease-free source of fresh lemons for the US market. Florida is dying due to citrus black spot. Texas too. We are fighting hard to keep it out of California,” Joel Nelsen, president of the California Citrus Mutual told Associated Press.
However, Argentine producers claim Trump’s actions amount to protectionism and stem from his election promise to “buy American”. They insist that they have worked for years to ensure that their production meets the conditions demanded by the US.
“This is neither a technical nor a trade issue,” said Federcitrus president José Carbonell, “but rather animosity against our product”.
Tucumán is home to 80 per cent of Argentina’s lemon production and 95 per cent of exports, most of which are destined for the European market.