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Produce Coalition for NAFTA formed by U.S., Canadian fruit and vegetable companies

Leading U.S. and Canadian fruit and vegetable companies have formed the Produce Coalition for NAFTA to jointly support efforts to modernize NAFTA, while maintaining duty-free access for produce within the NAFTA countries. The Produce Coalition for NAFTA believes important issues like border procedures, harmonization of regulations and the protection of intellectual property offer opportunities for real improvements in free trade.

The Produce Coalition for NAFTA consists of the following companies: Driscoll’s, Fall Creek Farm & Nursery, Growers Express, JV Smith Cos., Mission Produce Inc., NatureSweet, Red Sun Farms, Star Produce, Sunset Mastronardi Produce, Taylor Farms and Wonderful Citrus.

The Produce Coalition is concerned, however, that the NAFTA negotiations could be used to impose new trade barriers instead of eliminating them. Proposals to make it easier to impose anti-dumping duties on produce, for example, threaten the success of the cross-border fruit and vegetable trade and could result in increased tariffs that negatively impact growers in all three countries as well as U.S. consumers.  

NAFTA eliminated tariffs and resulted in more year-round availability for the U.S. consumer. According to the coalition, consumers are eating healthier options, with U.S. per capital consumption of fresh vegetables reaching 145.1 pounds per year, a 14 percent increase from the 126.8 pounds per year in 1993 before NAFTA was enacted.   

“U.S. consumption of avocados has increased by nearly five times since the U.S. border opened to Mexican imports,” Steve Barnard, president and chief executive officer of Mission Produce, said in a press release. “All growers have benefited from securing long-term partnerships with major foodservice operators who now have enough supply to put avocados on the menu. Regardless of growing regions, it’s a win-win for everyone who has contributed to increasing demand driven by a consistent 12-month supply.”

While there have been considerable increases of produce imports since the inception of NAFTA, the domestic production value of fruits and vegetables within the United States has expanded as well.  

“Since 1993 to 2016, the U.S. fresh strawberry production has increased more than 80 percent and provides almost 90 percent of the U.S. supply,” Kevin Murphy, CEO of Driscoll’s, said in the release.  “The 52-week supply of high-quality strawberries has been at the heart of the growth and allowed for stability and consistency of the category.” 

In order to meet the year-round market demand for nutritious fruits and vegetables, geographical growing regions need to change with the seasons. Typically, this means during the winter, growing production begins in Mexico, and then moves to the United States and Canada with the approach of warm weather. The total value of agricultural trade (exports and imports) among all three NAFTA countries reached about $82 billion in 2013, compared with $16.7 billion in 1993 (the year before NAFTA’s implementation). The coalition said phenomenal agriculture growth coming out of Mexico since NAFTA can also be attributed to the millions of dollars invested in technology and growing innovations.

“All NAFTA countries should be applauded for their efforts to adopt innovative farming practices,” Paul Mastronardi, president and CEO of Mastronardi Produce, said in the release. “The tomato industry has been transformed through investment in world class production systems and bringing to market new varieties with great flavor.”

The Produce Coalition for NAFTA looks forward to modernizing NAFTA and believes the guiding principal of the negotiations should be to maintain duty free access for agriculture goods within NAFTA countries. The coalition will continue to support efforts that improve the North American market and meet consumer needs.