Jittery US apple farmers fear falling victim to trade battle

By Reuters – Global Times Source:Reuters Published: 2018/9/5 19:58:41

Apple farmers across the northwest of the US fear they will be the next victims of the US-China trade war that has left cherry growers in the same region with weak prices and having to scramble for alternative buyers because of prohibitive Chinese tariffs.

US President Donald Trump has dealt a blow to farmers this year with strong-arm trade tactics that have prompted retaliation from key markets for US products, including the sweet cherries and apples that speckle landscapes across West US from summer through autumn.

"We'd like this to be settled right away, but it doesn't seem like it will be, so we're just holding on," said Ray Norwood, director of sales and marketing for Auvil Fruit Co, a Washington-based grower of cherries and apples.

The apple is the state's top agricultural crop, representing some $2 billion to $2.5 billion in sales each year, according to the Washington Apple Commission. While the bulk of these apples are consumed domestically, about 30 percent are exported and are vulnerable to tariffs.

China is the world's largest producer of the fruit, but it has also become a major destination for US-grown varieties like Red Delicious and Gala apples.

The governments of those key destinations have countered Trump's tariffs with hefty levies of their own.

Apple sellers like Auvil are bracing for the same downturn that hit cherries, just as US orchards ramp up harvesting of some 4.7 million tons.

"I don't know just how much it'll be down, but we do think it'll be drastic," said Rebecca Lyons, international marketing director of the Washington Apple Commission in Wenatchee, Washington, noting effective 50 percent levies on US apples in China.

 "The global apple market is very competitive ... Even if the tariffs are lifted, it'll be harder for us to get back into those markets."


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