Citrus industry leaders from Florida, Texas, and California descended upon Washington, D.C. last week laying a foundation regarding the explosion of off shore imports into the domestic market adversely affecting grower revenues and shelf space at retail stores. The California contingent consisted of CCM’s President Casey Creamer and Strategic Advisor Joel Nelsen along with Sunkist’s Vice President, Government Relations Rayne Thompson. Meetings were held with USDA and USTR and then summarized for Congressional members on Capitol Hill. USDA’s data depicting the scope of the problem, which is prepared by the Office of the Chief Economist, clearly showed the adverse effects of major volumes originating from Chile, Mexico, and South Africa to name three exporting production areas. The group prepared data indicating production trends including hectares planted and export tonnage. One-page summaries were submitted discussing trade dynamics and potential solution paths for better management of the volume.
Emphasis was placed on the fact that the definition of counter-seasonal had changed dramatically, previous economic assessments woefully under estimated the volume of fruit entering the United States, and finally costs of production were significantly less than the domestic producer thereby allowing less expensive sales to nevertheless realize significant per acre returns for off shore producers. Historical trade data was presented that showed the massive growth into the United States and the relatively flat export opportunities for the domestic citrus industry.
No “ask” was sought during these sessions as the stated goal was to get the Administration to focus on trends that are becoming problems that will result in a crisis for the domestic citrus producer if new thinking did not create a better balanced situation. Additional conversations will be scheduled!