The Sunshine Economy: Tomato Trade War

Sep 18, 2013

Tony DiMare is vice president of DiMare Companies, one of the largest growers of tomatoes in Florida.
Credit Tony DiMare

The juicy red tomato has been the target of an international trade war since the mid-1990s. It pits U.S. tomato growers, including DiMare Company of South Florida, against growers in Mexico.  

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The heart of the conflict is about prices. Tony DiMare of DiMare Company contends the U.S. government allows Mexican growers to sell their tomatoes in the U.S. at below-cost prices. He's been arguing with the federal government about this since 1996.

And every few years the U.S. Commerce Department hammers out a deal with the Mexican growers, delaying any court action Florida growers could take. Here's a link to the latest Commerce Department agreement.

Meantime, Martin Ley, a spokesman for Mexican growers, argues tomato farmers south of our border are more efficient, have more productive methods and use technology to help reduce the cost of planting, picking and shipping tomatoes.  

The dispute is over $.11 cents per pound. That's the difference between what DiMare says it costs him to produce South Florida tomatoes and what the U.S. government allows Mexican growers to sell their tomatoes for here.

By the way, yes, the tomato is scientifically a fruit but in 1893 the U.S. Supreme Court decided for legal purposes the tomato is a vegetable.