Compost-Dispatch May 1999


Farmers in Florida that grow tomatoes are angry with the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that has allowed a flood of tomatoes from Mexico into this country. The prices that farmers receive is lowered but consumers are not seeing lower prices at the market.

The Florida growers used to provide 65 percent of the all tomatoes consumed in the US, before NAFTA. Now the markets have reversed.

This year because of an abundant harvest in Mexico, the usual price of tomatoes paid to farmers, 28 cents a pound is down to 22 cents, but consumers are not seeing a decrease in their costs at the market. According to American growers farmers are having a tougher time every year. Many are finding that surviving the flood of cheap fruit from Mexico, where wages are far lower and restrictions are less, some are faced with having to go broke or quit. They say that the growers in Mexico who dont have to pay Social Security, workers compensation or unemployment benefits make the playing field unlevel for American growers.

This year the favorable growing conditions in both the US and Mexico has tightened the competition. In order to compete US growers have decided to pick only the best quality tomatoes to entice buyers. Estimates were that only 40 percent of the US crop would be brought to market, the remaining 60 percent would lay to waste in the field. A considerable waste given that the cry from agribusiness is that we can not produce enough food to feed the world.

The retail price for tomatoes in Florida in March went from $1.48 to $1.52. A Florida state agriculture commissioner was puzzled by the prices. Officials from Florida are told that the U.S. Department of Commerce may investigate whether Mexico is dumping cheap tomatoes in the U.S. market. In 1996, a lawsuit was settled over the issue with both sides agreeing to establish a floor price for growers from the US and Mexico.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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