The United States International Trade Commission Nov. 22 said imported Mexican fresh tomatoes threaten the U.S. tomato industry.
In October, the U.S. Department of Commerce said Mexican tomatoes had been dumped in the U.S. market at an average margin of 21 percent less than fair value.
As a result of the USITC’s decision, the suspension agreement that the commerce department previously entered concerning fresh tomatoes from Mexico will remain in effect, according to a USITC statement.
"These rulings validate the U.S. industry’s long-held claims about dumped Mexican tomatoes. The ITC will formally issue its determination on December 9, which will mark the end of the antidumping investigation that began in 1996," says Michael Schadler, executive vice president of the Florida Tomato Exchange, in a Nov. 22 statement.
The USITC's ruling in an antidumping investigation typically leads to duties on the subject imports, in this case, tomatoes. Since the investigation was completed after the signing of a new suspension agreement, the antidumping duties will be suspended if the agreement remains in place. If either side withdraws from the agreement, the duties will be imposed.
“The new agreement provides a level of certainty that has that has been lacking over the last couple of years on both sides of the border, and we hope all parties can now focus on complying with the terms of the new agreement,” Schadler says. “We will remain very engaged with the Commerce Department to ensure that the inspection and compliance provisions of the new agreement are being followed and enforced properly.”
On a related note, Nov. 22 USDA Plant Health Inspection Service began new actions to prevent the tomato brown rugose fruit virus from reaching U.S. tomatoes and pepper production regions.
APHIS's orders restrict imports and increases inspections of tomato and pepper seed and transplants from countries where the virus is confirmed such as tomato or pepper imports from Mexico, Israel and the Netherlands.
In response to the U.S. actions, the Mexican Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development released a statement.
"In order to continue smoothly the export of tomato and fresh chili to the United States, the National Service of Agrifood Health, Safety and Quality, or Senasica, informed the producers, exporters and packers that from this date must accompany shipments with a document in which they declare that their product does not show symptoms of tomato rugged fruit virus," the Mexican ministry's statement said in part.
Canada imports tomato and pepper from Mexico that may end up exported into the U.S. Because of this, USDA now requires Canada to inspect tomato and pepper to make sure shipments are free of the disease before entering the U.S.
Tomato brown rugose fruit virus, according to USDA, can cause severe fruit loss in tomatoes and peppers. Spread by contaminated tools, hands and plant-to-plant contact, it was first reported in tomatoes in Israel in 2014. Since, it has been reported in China, Mexico, Germany (but since eradicated in Germany), Italy, Greece, the United Kingdom, Jordan, Turkey, and the Netherlands. The virus was detected and eradicated from a California tomato greenhouse in 2018.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Information about tomato brown rugose fruit virus added Nov. 24.