The European Union has imposed $4 billion in tariffs on US goods this week in response to the WTO conclusion that aerospace company Boeing has benefitted unfairly from state support. This provided the EU with a green light to impose tariffs on the US. The list of products to which the tariffs will apply is lengthy and includes sweet potatoes and fresh grapefruit as well as fruit juices and nuts.
Sweet potato exports will be heavily impacted
The US sweet potato harvest has just about wrapped up in the southeast of the US where the majority of the crop is grown. Charlotte Vick from Vick Family Farms, who grow sweet potatoes in North Carolina, shares: “The new tariffs are a big increase, from 3% to 25%, and they come right at the time where the demand in the EU for US sweet potatoes is starting to pick up. Christmas is a busy season for sweet potatoes and neither we nor our customers had pretty much any warning that this was going to happen,” she says.
While it’s still possible that some agreement might be made about the tariffs, but if they stay in place for the coming months there will likely be a big impact on the sweet potato exports. “If no agreement is made about this, I would expect the US to lose a lot of EU business. Added to that is the fact that there aren’t a lot of other supplies available for sweet potatoes around the world during the coming months, so it may mean that some store shelves will be bare of sweet potatoes. The EU loves the taste and quality of the US sweet potatoes and the US industry has worked hard and spent a lot of time and money on developing that market,” Vick explains.
In the end, the effects of the tariffs on the sweet potatoes will likely impact consumers the most. “Due to a much smaller crop in the US this season, we can’t help absorb any of these costs for the buyers, they will have to pass these along to the consumers. Fortunately, the pricing and the demand in the US market are good right now. All we can pray for is that some agreement is made soon,” Vick concludes.
Florida grapefruit industry
While the California citrus industry doesn’t ship much fruit to Europe, the EU is an important market for Florida grapefruit. “The consumers recognize it as a premium product and do pay a premium for it,” says Dan Richey from Riverfront Packing. “We are evaluating the ultimate impact of these tariffs. Our focus at this time is to work with the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the Trump Administration and the USDA to determine if a quick remedy to this issue is possible. Obviously, it is a great concern that the EU has chosen to impose an immediate exorbitant tariff on our fruit.”
The Texas citrus industry has been looking to increase their grapefruit shipments to the EU over the past few years. “The main markets are in North America but about 3-4% of the grapefruit crop is exported to Europe and other destinations. This new tariff will likely greatly diminish exports to the EU this season,” says Dale Murden of Texas Citrus Mutual.
For more information:
Vick Family Farms
Tel: +1 (252) 237-7313
Riverfront Packing Company
Tel: +1 (772) 562-4124
Texas Citrus Mutual
Tel: +1 (956) 584-1772