June 8, 2018 – –By Elaine Trevino, President, Almond Alliance of California – – After spending several days as part of an Almond Board of California delegation in Washington DC meeting with officials from USDA, Foreign Agricultural Service, United States Trade Representative and California’s Congressional delegation, here is my perspective about the recent retaliation against U.S. agriculture, including California almonds, in response to tariffs placed by the U.S. on steel and aluminum imports. The delegation’s goal was to speak with lawmakers and agency/department officials about the potential short-term and long-term impacts of Chinese tariffs on California almonds.
The message to leadership is that China is the third largest market for California almonds and the demand continues to grow. The Almond Board of California has invested close to $40 million dollars in marketing activities over the past 5 years to expand almond consumption in China. Year to date shipments are up over 20%. We expressed that trade with China matters and is vital to the California almond industry, those employed by the industry and the economies and communities that depend on them. It was also expressed that the largest competitor to California almonds in the Asian Pacific region is Australia; noting that China and Australia recently finalized a free trade agreement that will eliminate almond tariffs to 0% in 2019. This will make California almonds at least 25% more expensive than Australian almonds.
Our presence in D.C was to educate, educate, educate. I consistently heard from the administration appointed and career staff that the future is uncertain as it pertains to trade and tariffs. Japan, Russia, and Turkey have joined the EU, India and China in notifying the WTO of potential retaliation to the steel and aluminum tariffs. Please see the “Trade and Retaliatory Tariffs” fact sheet provided by Almond Board of California below for more detailed information.
Based on our DC visits, it is clear that leadership is not fully aware of how recent tariff decisions impact the California almond industry. In conjunction with our membership, other trade organization, coalition members and the Almond Board of California, the Almond Alliance is working to articulate these anticipated impacts.
If you have a story to share, whether it is not having commitments during a time when you traditionally have contracts in place, feedback from buyers/brokers in China and India markets, an abnormal vessel delay or inspection, or changes in businesses decisions based on the recent tariffs, please share this information with the Almond Alliance. We are compiling these impact stories and data, in order to help the administration and leadership better understand the economic and relationship impacts to the California almond industry.