Aug 31, 2017Coalition addresses impact of NAFTA on produce sector
Several U.S. and Canadian fruit and vegetable companies — including Driscoll’s, Taylor Farms, Mission Produce and Wonderful Citrus introduced on Aug. 31 the Produce Coalition for NAFTA, which supports efforts to protect and modernize NAFTA while maintaining duty-free access for produce within the NAFTA countries.
On Aug. 30, CEOs from the six brands that make up the Coalition signed a letter to members of Congress, including Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, expressing support for modernizing NAFTA.
Coalition members believe “issues like border procedures, harmonization of regulations and the protection of intellectual property offer opportunities for real improvements in free trade. As well, Coalition members are concerned that the NAFTA negotiations could be used to impose new trade barriers instead of eliminating them. Proposals to make it easier to impose anti-dumping duties on produce, for example, threaten the success of the cross-border fruit and vegetable trade and could result in increased tariffs that negatively impact growers in all three countries as well as U.S. consumers.
“The Produce Coalition for NAFTA believes important issues like border procedures, harmonization of regulations and the protection of intellectual property offer opportunities for real improvements in free trade,” the Coalition stated. “The Produce Coalition is concerned, however, that the NAFTA negotiations could be used to impose new trade barriers instead of eliminating them. Proposals to make it easier to impose anti-dumping duties on produce, for example, threaten the success of the cross-border fruit and vegetable trade and could result in increased tariffs that negatively impact growers in all three countries as well as U.S. consumers.”
According to the statement, NAFTA eliminated tariffs and resulted in more year-round availability for the U.S. consumer. Consumers are eating healthier options, with U.S. per capital consumption of fresh vegetables reaching 145.1 pounds per year, a 14 percent increase from the 126.8 pounds per year in 1993 before NAFTA was enacted.
“U.S. consumption of avocados has increased by nearly five times since the U.S. border opened to Mexican imports” said Steve Barnard, president and CEO of Mission Produce. “All growers have benefited from securing long-term partnerships with major foodservice operators who now have enough supply to put avocados on the menu. Regardless of growing regions, it’s a win/win for everyone who has contributed to increasing demand driven by a consistent twelve-month supply.”
While there have been considerable increases of produce imports since the inception of NAFTA, the domestic production value of fruits and vegetables within the United States has expanded as well.
“Since 1993 to 2016, the U.S. fresh strawberry production has increased more than 80 percent and provides almost 90 percent of the U.S. supply” says Kevin Murphy, CEO of Driscoll’s. “The 52-week supply of high quality strawberries has been at the heart of the growth and allowed for stability and consistency of the category.”
In order to meet the year-round market demand for nutritious fruits and vegetables, geographical growing regions need to change with the seasons, the Coalition stated.
“Typically, this means during the winter, growing production begins in Mexico, and then moves to the United States and Canada with the approach of warm weather. The total value of agricultural trade (exports and imports) among all three NAFTA countries reached about $82 billion in 2013, compared with $16.7 billion in 1993 (the year before NAFTA’s implementation). Phenomenal agriculture growth coming out of Mexico since NAFTA can also be attributed to the millions of dollars invested in technology and growing innovations.”
“All NAFTA countries should be applauded for their efforts to adopt innovative farming practices,” said Paul Mastronardi, president and CEO. “The tomato industry has been transformed through investment in world-class production systems and bringing to market new varieties with great flavor.”
“The Produce Coalition for NAFTA looks forward to modernizing NAFTA and believes the guiding principal of the negotiations should be to maintain duty free access for agriculture goods within NAFTA countries. The Coalition will continue to support efforts that improve the North American market and meet consumer needs.”