The U.S. government is poised to impose tariffs on ripe olives from Spain after finding they’ve been dumped on the U.S. market and harmed domestic producers.
Last year, two federal agencies launched an anti-dumping investigation into Spanish ripe table olives at the behest of two California companies, Bell-Carter Foods and Musco Family Olive Co.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has now concluded that imports of Spanish olives have “materially injured” domestic producers after the U.S. Commerce Department earlier found they’re being dumped at less than fair value in the U.S.
Those two determinations mean that federal “countervailing and antidumping duty orders” can now be imposed.
According to the California olive producers, the very existence of the domestic industry is being threatened by a flood of Spanish olives.
“U.S. domestic processors invented the ripe olive product but without relief from unfairly traded imports, the U.S. industry will disappear,” they said in a petition urging government action.
Over the past five years, the volume of Spanish ripe olives shipped to the U.S. has surged more than 50 percent, to 58,000 tons, at a price that’s 40 percent lower than the domestic product, the petition said.
Bell-Carter and Musco said they’re caught in a “Catch-22” situation because they can’t remain competitive while raising consumer prices, but they also can’t reduce prices to farmers without having them remove olive trees.
“This problem will only get worse; as subject imports continue to depress grower margins, U.S. growers will have no choice but to continue pulling acreage from olive production, thereby further reducing U.S. supply to domestic processors,” according to the companies.
Acreage in California, where most olives are grown, has contracted by roughly one-fourth since 2013 as farmers switch to higher-value crops like almonds, the petition said.
“Time is running out for the domestic ripe olive industry,” according to Bell-Carter and Musco.
The U.S. Commerce Department has found that the Spanish government is providing subsidies to olive producers that amount to 7 to 27 percent of their value.
Such practices have allowed Spanish producers to sell their olives in the U.S. at 17 percent to 25 percent below fair market value, with total sales hitting $67.6 million last year.
The U.S. Commerce Department notes that “enforcement of U.S. trade law is a prime focus of the Trump Administration,” which has opened 118 anti-dumping investigations so far, an increase of nearly 60 percent compared to the same time during the Obama administration.