As is well-known, the Chinese trade market is a significant export destination for California citrus growers and the ongoing trade dispute has created substantial challenges for the citrus industry. However, there is optimism that the initial trade deal that was agreed to by the US and China can set the tone for future trade relations between the two countries.
“I’d say that the phase one agreement, while we still don’t know all the details, is a sign of progress versus what we had before which was more of a stalemate,” said California Citrus Mutual President and CEO Casey Creamer. “Still, what’s concerning for the California citrus industry is the retaliatory tariffs that were placed on our industry by China that’s restricted movement to that good export market for us.”
The United States Department of Agriculture dedicated $104 million to help alleviate some of the pressure on the citrus industry related to the ongoing trade tensions. Because of the trade dispute with China, US citrus has lost some of the market share in China to other citrus competitors such as South Africa, Australia, and Egypt. Creamer explained that the tariffs placed on US citrus in the Chinese trade market were incrementally increased to reach a level of about 75 percent. “It’s very tough to compete when you’ve got almost a double price on a tariff,” said Creamer.
An initial trade agreement between the US and China was announced back in December, with intentions for both parties to sign the agreement on January 15. However, in a recent interview, President Donald Trump indicated that the January 15 date may not be definite. Creamer noted that the industry is hopeful that once the agreement is signed that “China will follow through on their commitment to purchases and that you’ll start to see China remove the retaliatory tariffs on citrus and you’ll start to see a normal flow back into China.”