Jun 6, 2018
Washington apple growers brace for impact of Mexico tariffs

Washington’s apple growers are looking for new markets to make up for the expected loss of business after Mexico, their biggest export customer, imposed tariffs on purchases, a growers’ representative said.

Mexico announced June 5 it will levy tariffs on imports of U.S. products. The order stipulates charges of 15 percent to 25 percent on U.S. farm goods including pork, cheese, apples and potatoes, bourbon whiskey and cranberries. The move follows a U.S. decision to impose tariffs on imports of Mexican steel and aluminum purchases, which took effect on Friday.

According to a report from the Seattle Times, Washington exports apples valued at $200 million to $250 million to Mexico every year, representing 10 percent of its total market, Todd Fryhover, president of the Wenatchee-based Washington Apple Commission, said Tuesday morning. That makes it by far the biggest market for the state’s apples.

“I don’t know that it was unforeseen,” Fryhover said. “Everybody has been predicting this because of the steel and aluminum tariffs.”

The Times also reported:

“The vast majority of the state’s apples are grown on irrigated lands east of the Cascades in counties where Trump had strong support in the 2016 election. Ric Valicoff, a grower in the Yakima Valley,  said he continues to back the president in trade negotiations with Mexico.

“I think the administration is correct in trying to correct long-overdue trade imbalances. It’s not just apples. It’s pretty much everything. If we all stick together and absorb some of the hits, at the end of the day we’ll come out successful,” he said.

Valicoff said Mexico has an economic stake in the Washington apple harvest, since many Mexican  workers – hired on temporary work permits – are employed in the fruit industry, and send much of their wages back to their home country. Valicoff, who is vice president of the 1,700-acre Valicoff Fruit Co., has employed 96 Mexican workers since January and soon will hire another 86.

He said it’s too early to predict the size of this year’s harvest, but that unusual heat in May caused what he called  a “flash bloom,” in which the blossoms didn’t pollinate as well as in years past, so that could affect the size of the crop.”

Visit here for more on the report from the Seattle Times,

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