03/05/2013 9:27:59 AM
Tom Karst/The Packer



A new suspension agreement has been signed by Mexican tomato growers and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The deal, announced in a press release March 4 from the Commerce Department, suspends the antidumping duty investigation of fresh tomatoes from Mexico and was signed by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Import Administration Paul Piquado.


“This agreement meets the requirements of U.S. antidumping law and provides an effective remedy for the U.S. domestic industry that protects American jobs,” Piquado said in the release.


“It includes important mechanisms that strengthen our ability to enforce the agreement and maintain required coverage of Mexican tomato imports, thereby helping American tomato growers to compete on a level playing field.”


A fact sheet about the agreement is available online.


The Commerce Department had announced the draft plan on Feb. 2, and the signing of the agreement March 4 makes it effective immediately. The agreement sets different floor prices for Mexican fresh tomatoes during the summer and winter and also specifies prices for open field/adapted-environment and controlled-environment production.


The proposal raises minimum prices substantially, in some cases more than double the current floor price for certain products.


Compared to the previous agreement’s reference prices of 21.69 cents per pound in the winter and 17.2 cents per pound in the summer for all Mexican fresh tomatoes, the new agreement sets the winter price for open field and adapted environment tomatoes at 31 cents per pound in the winter and 24.58 cents per pound in the summer. Prices for controlled environment tomatoes are put at 41 cents per pound in the winter and 32.51 cents per pound in the summer. The agreement’s reference price for loose specialty tomatoes is 45 cents per pound in the winter and 35.68 cents per pound in the summer. Packed specialty tomatoes have minimum prices of 59 cents per pound in the winter and 46.79 cents per pound in the summer, according to terms of the agreement.


Tim Truman, spokesman for the Office of Public Affairs for the International Trade Administration, said there were no significant changes in the final agreement compared with the draft agreement published in early February. Truman said more than 600 Mexican growers and exporters signed the agreement, up from 450 growers/exporters who signed the 2008 agreement.


The release said the new agreement covers imports of all fresh or chilled tomatoes of Mexican origin, except tomatoes that are for processing. The agreement accounts for changes that have occurred in the tomato industry since the signing of the original agreement in 1996 and increases the number of tomato categories with established reference prices from one to four, according to the release.


“I’m pleased with the collaborative efforts that resulted in this agreement, which will help to maintain stability in tomato trade between the United States and Mexico,” Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez said in the release.


Under U.S. antidumping law, according to the release, the suspension agreement must stop price undercutting and price suppression in the U.S. market and eliminate at least 85% of the dumping.


There have been three previous suspension agreements covering imports of fresh tomatoes from Mexico – in 1996, 2002, and 2008.

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