WASHINGTON — Just a week after an industry trade group warned of a “tomato cliff,”  the U.S. Department of Commerce announced that it has reached an agreement with Mexican tomato growers to suspend its antidumping investigation.
The updated agreement raises the floor price for fresh or chilled imported tomatoes and increases enforcement, the agency said. Under this agreement, open field tomatoes would have a base price of 31 cents per pound during the winter and 25 cents during the summer. The base price for specialty packed tomatoes would be 59 cents during the winter and 47 during the summer.
Before this deal was made, U.S. growers said that Mexican tomato growers had an unfair advantage in the market and that the previous agreement was outdated. Industry groups representing Mexican tomato growers had warned that an upfront duty at the border would drive imports out of the U.S. market and raise retail prices significantly.
“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,” Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade Francisco Sánchez said in a media statement.
“The draft agreement raises reference prices substantially, in some cases more than double the current reference price for certain products, and accounts for changes that have occurred in the tomato market since the signing of the original agreement. This solution puts in place important mechanisms to attain increased signatory coverage and robust enforcement that will allow American workers and the U.S. tomato industry to compete on a level playing field.”
Mexican tomato growers and the Commerce Department have had an ongoing suspension agreement establishing a base price for tomatoes since 1996.
The agency will accept comments until Feb. 11 and expects the final agreement to be effective on March 4.
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