FPAA President, Lance Jungmeyer, commented to The Packer about the University of Florida study that makes misleading claims about tomato imports from Mexico. Below you will find the FPAA’s full written response:
The assertions made about Mexican tomatoes in a study by Dr. Zhengfei Guan have been taken out of context, resulting in conclusions that are misleading and unrealistic, according to the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. The paper’s topline finding suggests a 50% increase in Mexican tomato imports “in the coming years,” while a chart (Figure 1) in Dr. Zhengfei Guan’s study shows that Mexican tomato imports climbed about 20% in the decade from 2009 to 2019.
“Mexico has become the main source for vine-ripened round and Roma tomatoes during the late fall, winter, and early spring seasons and the market share is reflective of that. Consumers prefer flavorful vine-ripened tomatoes over gassed green tomatoes,” said Lance Jungmeyer, President of the FPAA. “While we expect consumers to continue to choose Mexican vine-ripened tomatoes, we are beyond flattered that Dr. Zhengfei Guan suggests 50% growth. However, that simply is unrealistic especially considering that volumes have grown only 20% during the past decade.”
The paper, entitled “How trade affects the US produce industry: The case of fresh tomatoes,” goes on to discuss increasing costs of harvesting in Florida and elsewhere, a factor that FPAA agrees is caused by some U.S. states more than doubling the minimum wage in recent years. Indeed, rising wage rates are hitting every business, including U.S. distributors like FPAA companies that employ tens of thousands in the U.S.
“For over a hundred years, American jobs have been built by U.S. distributors of Mexican tomatoes. A 2019 University of Arizona study showed that more than 33,000 U.S. jobs were created by imports of Mexican vine-ripened tomatoes, which for obvious reasons are generally preferred over field-grown gassed-green tomatoes such as we see from Florida,” Jungmeyer added.
FPAA does indeed predict further growth for imported Mexican tomatoes, which by and large are grown in protected and greenhouse environs. “Large buyers are voting based on many factors, including climate change and impact on the environment. Mexican tomatoes check all the boxes when it comes to reducing water use, slashing chemical inputs and reducing carbon footprint,” Jungmeyer said. “Tomatoes from Florida cannot say the same thing, and that’s why you see so many large Florida tomato companies that are also large growers and purchasers of vine-ripened tomatoes from Mexico.”
Jungmeyer added: “It is inappropriate to blame Mexican imports for shortages in available U.S. agricultural workers and increased wages, just as Mexican imports are not responsible for hurricanes and tropical storms or real estate development pressures in Florida that also have harmed Florida tomato growers.”
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