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Tentative deal reached on tomato suspension agreement

The U.S. government and Mexican tomato growers reached a tentative agreement Feb. 2 that raises the minimum reference price for Mexican plum, cherry and other tomatoes that are sold in the United States.

"I am pleased that we were able to come to an agreement on fresh tomato imports from Mexico that restores stability and confidence to the U.S. tomato market and meets the requirements of U.S. law," Francisco Sanchez, undersecretary for international trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, said in a statement.

The deal, which is expected to take effect on March 4 after a public comment period, will more than double the reference price on some Mexican tomatoes.

The agreement specifies four distinct categories of tomatoes: open field and adapted environment; controlled environment; specialty loose; and specialty packed. The agreement establishes winter and summer reference prices for each category. Winter prices range from 31 cents per pound for open field and adapted environment to 59 cents for specialty packed. Summer prices range from 24.6 cents to 46.8 cents per pound.

Currently, the reference price is 21.6 cents in winter and 17.2 cents in summer.

According to a fact sheet released by the U.S. Department of Commerce, the agreement broadens the coverage of Mexican tomato imports subject to the agreement and it enhances enforcement on the Mexican side of the border through separate mechanisms put in place by the Mexican government, designed to ensure that signatories to the agreement constitute essentially all Mexican grower-exporters.

Additionally, the agreement would strengthen enforcement on the U.S. side of the border by incorporating a reporting mechanism pursuant to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Perishable Agriculture Commodities Act fair trade regulations.

Comments will be accepted until Feb. 11, after which time they will be reviewed with the goal of a final agreement for signature by U.S. and Mexican officials.