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Michigan cherry industry still trying to absorb tariff loss to Turkey

The tart cherry businesses of north-west Michigan, that have seen quite some hard economic times lately, were among the hundreds of fruit growers, processors, researchers, vendors and promoters assembled last week at Grand Traverse Resort just outside Traverse City.

They were hoping for good news from a federal agency -the U.S. International Trade Commission-which seemed predestined to slap a heavy duty on imports of dried Turkish tart cherries which had flooded U.S. markets. It was critical to northern Michigan growers, who produce about 70 percent of the nation’s tart cherries.

That morning, word came that the ITC had rejected a U.S. Commerce Department preliminary finding in September that Turkey exports dried tart cherries at below production costs. The ITC said in a press release it determined the U.S. industry “is not materially injured or threatened with material injury by reason of imports of dried tart cherries from Turkey that the U.S. Department of Commerce has determined are subsidized and sold in the United States at less than fair value.”

“We were expecting to be coming to a birthday party,” said Nels Veliquette, chief financial officer of Cherry Ke, an Antrim County-based consortium of businesses that grows, transports and processes tart cherries. “And it turned out to be a funeral that really took the wind out of the sails of the growers’ morale.”

“Based on the public information, we thought we had a strong case,” said Elizabeth Drake, an attorney representing five cherry processors in Michigan and Utah who filed the challenge against Turkish imports. “We’ll have to review carefully before recommending a next step.”

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