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Officials from Washington's apple industry are pleased with an early March announcement by the Mexican government that a tariff in place for more than a decade was removed. The 47 percent duty added approximately $10 to each box of imported Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples.

The Mexican government imposed the duty following allegations that Washington apples were being dumped in Mexico at a cost lower than actual production. Over the years, the duty was contested in Mexican courts. Last October, a review panel operating under the authority of the North American Free Trade Agreement said that it could find no data to support the allegations of dumping. The Mexican government also reviewed data last month and reached a similar conclusion.

"We have had 14 years of dealing with this tariff," Washington Apple Commission President Todd Fryhover told The Produce News March 5. “The industry is now on the same level playing field.”

Jim Archer, manager of Northwest Fruit Exporters, agreed. “The majority of the industry [had] really been shut out of the market because of the high duty,” he said. “This has been a long, difficult period for the industry. This is positive news for the industry.”

Washington is the largest apple producer in the United States. Mr. Archer said that apple volume exported to Mexico is twice as large as the volume sent to Canada, the second-largest export market.

According to Mr. Fryhover, the palate of Mexican consumers is evolving in the same way it has domestically. The newer varietals are becoming more popular in Mexico, and they have been imported duty free. With the removal of the duty on Reds and Goldens, “Now the importer has a choice,” Mr. Fryhover added.

Two varieties popular in Mexico are Gala and Granny Smith. “Thank the good Lord for that,” Mr. Fryhover noted.

Both men agree it is going to be hard to predict whether elimination of the tariff will result in increased exports of Washington apples.