Wheat, pears, cherries, potatoes helped if Brazilian tariff ends

Dan Wheat/Capital Press B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers and the Washington State Fruit Commission, both in Yakima.

Mexican tariff costs pear industry about $18 million in lost sales

By DAN WHEAT

Capital Press

An end to the Brazilian tariff before it begins would be great news for U.S. wheat farmers but also good news for Pacific Northwest pear, cherry and potato growers.

Brazil typically is the No. 3 export market for Northwest pears and a 30 percent tariff would cut about $4 million out of what was a $13.6 million market in the last season, said Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, Wash.

Matt Harris, director of trade at the Washington State Potato Commission in Moses Lake, Wash., said a 20 percent tariff on top of an existing 14 percent Brazilian tariff on U.S. potatoes would eliminate $1 million in Washington state dehydrated potato exports to Brazil.

And a tariff would cripple fledgling Pacific Northwest cherry exports to Brazil that rose to 30,000, 20-pound boxes last year from 5,000 the year before, said B.J. Thurlby, president of Northwest Cherry Growers in Yakima.

"We look at it as an emerging market. We need every market we can get," Thurlby said.

Brazil bought 512,000, 44-pound boxes of Northwest pears this year, up from 268,000 a year ago, said Kevin Moffitt, president of The Pear Bureau Northwest in Portland, Ore.

Moffitt anticipates a 20 to 30 percent drop in exports to Brazil this coming fall and winter if there's a 10 to 30 percent tariff on pears. It would cost companies $3 to $5 more per box to ship pears into Brazil, and that would cause sales to drop, he said.

Harris called it frustrating that the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative is eager to solve the Brazilian tariff but not the Mexico's tariff over a trucking dispute.

The Mexican tariff has cost the Pacific Northwest pear industry about $18 million in lost sales, Powers said.

Harris said it's cost $15 million in sales of frozen french fries.

"Our government isn't taking this as seriously as it should. Business and jobs have been lost in this state because of it and the government isn't doing anything about it," Harris said.

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