Commentary: Tomato imports from Mexico create unfair market

Commentary: Tomato imports from Mexico create unfair market

(Photo: University of Florida) If you want to pick a home-grown tomato from the produce bin, you’d better reach carefully — past the five Mexican imports for each one grown in the U.S.A.

It wasn’t always like this. Less than a generation ago, U.S. farms supplied the majority of tomatoes in U.S. markets. It’s the same story with strawberries, peppers and blueberries.

Why the change? Until recently we explained it away as imports beating out local produce on price in a free market.

To University of Florida economist Zhengfei Guan, the question was “How free?” To find out, he and his team of economists dug through government data. Mexican government data.

It revealed that before you make a choice in the supermarket aisle, the Mexican government made choices to increase the likelihood that you’d buy cheap instead of American. It paid much of your cost by spending billions of pesos to help Mexican growers purchase sprinkler systems, shade houses, genetic research and other tools. In other words, subsidies.

This is certain to be a topic of discussion when the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association holds its annual convention in Naples this week.

International trade has winners and losers. U.S. growers sell a lot of corn and soybeans to Mexico, for example. Mexico’s government has essentially conceded those commodities to American farmers.Government subsidies for other crops make it possible for Mexican growers to sell strawberries, blueberries, peppers and tomatoes for essentially less than it costs to produce them — or at least to produce them in […]

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