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Walnuts from California fill a snacking bowl. The California Walnut Commission is trying to expand international marketing venues in response to trade uncertainties.

Walnut Commission looks at market development

Commodity group eyes expanding international markets.

While international trade wars and retaliatory tariffs have served to complicate the lives of U.S. agricultural producers, the California Walnut Commission (CWC) is looking for alternative venues for its members’ crop.

Like other Western tree nut industry groups, commissioners are exercising marketing strategies designed to grow international markets to offset the punishing retaliatory tariffs brought about by the most recent round U.S. trade policies.

The CWC was awarded Market Access Program (MAP) and Agricultural Trade Promotion Program (ATP) grants last month totaling $5.7 million for market export development, these are additional funds through USDA’s Food and Nutrition programs.

Just over $4 million of that award are from annual MAP funding opportunities, a highly competitive grant program among U.S. agricultural trade associations through USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS). The MAP funds awarded to CWC this year are earmarked for export programs in Asia, Europe and the Middle East to grow walnut consumption worldwide.

An additional $1.6 million (ATP) grant was awarded for the first time ever to qualifying trade associations to aid in the development of additional export activities to offset recent industry losses from tariff affected markets.

“As far as tariff mitigation funding, the $1.6 million grant award, this is the first year it has been offered or has been necessary from the U.S. government due to tariff actions that occurred last year,” Pamela Graviet, Senior International Marketing Director for the California Walnut Commission, said in a telephone interview last week.

Not the only support

Graviet said those funds are not the only form of support the industry will receive to mitigate losses experienced as a result of retaliatory tariffs.

“We [the California Walnut Commission] are scheduled to receive an additional $34.6 million in relief through the Food and Nutrition Purchase Program, which has resulted in USDA’s commitment to purchase that dollar amount of walnuts over the period of November last year to December of this year (2019) for distribution through its many nutritional programs such as the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and child nutrition programs.”

She said the purchase will help the walnut industry pull additional inventory out of the marketplace into those food and nutritional programs.  It will hopefully help to stabilize pricing and keep the walnut crop moving and still available for sale.

These ATP programs funds and opportunities are designed to benefit every aspect of the walnut industry, she says. What is missing for individual walnut growers are Market Facilitation Program (MFP) direct trade mitigation payments to offset losses caused by retaliatory tariffs.

“The Direct Payment Program was only available to producers who grow one of select commodities on a list of commodities that qualify for direct support, including corn, cotton, dairy, hog, sorghum, soybean, and wheat,” she said.

Also eligible are payments (beginning Sept. 24, 2018, for the initial MFP payment) for shelled almonds at a rate of 3 cents per pound and fresh sweet cherries at a rate of 16 cents per pound.

Programs growing

Export marketing programs are expected to continue to experience growth with the aid of MAP, according to USDA.  Exports accounted for 63 percent of shipments in the 2017/18 crop year and have been projected to grow as the CWC seeks out new sales channels and markets for future production.

“The possibilities the program provides us will build on successful marketing programs by expanding into new market segments such as food service, while also developing new markets in the Middle East and beyond,” stated Bill Carriere, Chair of the California Walnut Commission.

Bob Lea, Chair of the CWC Market Development Committee, expressed appreciation for the recent grant funding as well.

“The industry is grateful to USDA for their swift action to assist our industry in this difficult time,” he said in a press statement following the funding announcement.

The California walnut industry is made up of over 4,800 growers and over 90 handlers (processors).

TAGS: Marketing
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