Mexican tariffs could mean a spike for U.S. tomato prices

Mexican tariffs could mean a spike for U.S. tomato prices. (WWMT/File - MGN)

Prices for fresh tomatoes are expected to skyrocket as a result of a higher tariff on imported goods after the U.S. Department of Commerce announced Tuesday the termination of the 2013 Suspension Agreement on Fresh Tomatoes from Mexico.

The announcement means the U.S. will impose a 17.5% tariff on imported Mexican tomatoes, a move that experts said could lead to shortages and price hikes.

It's expected consumers who will buy tomatoes at the grocery that will have the most impact, but it's unclear when and if that will happen.

Talk of tomato tariffs doesn't sit well with Barb Jones, a retired Bedford Township resident.

"I don't like it, and I don't like it mostly for people that don't have high incomes," Jones said.

Experts said the move could lead to shortages and price hikes.

"For me, if I like the goods, I'll buy it no matter what. If it hurts financially, I'll find some way to buy the less expensive goods," said Turivi Nnkeeny of Battle Creek.

According to one estimate from Arizona State University, during cooler months when there are fewer domestic suppliers, consumers could pay up to 85% more for ripe and vine tomatoes.

"I don't think it's right to continually pay the taxes we're paying from fruits and vegetables coming from other countries," Jones said.

It's unclear how and when the tariffs would impact consumers here in Michigan. Several local restaurant owners said they don't expect to charge you more.

The Commerce Department said it began negotiating with Mexico in January 2018, yet the two sides haven't reached an agreement.

After the Commerce Department announced it would re-impose anti-dumping duties on Mexican imports Tuesday, Mexico's Economy Department said U.S. consumers could pay 38% to 70% more for tomatoes.

The tariffs could be refunded if a revised agreement is reached, according to a statement from the Commerce Department.

The tomato tariffs are another in a line of food-related tariffs which include Chinese imposed tariffs for other vegetables like cabbage, kale, carrots and beets, along with hundreds of types of fish.