The mostly on-again, sometimes off-again Mexican tariff on U.S. red and golden delicious apples is off for the time being —but perhaps not for long.

“As it stands right now, duties on reds and guldens are not being collected,” said Jim Archer, manager of Northwest Fruit Exporters, Yakima, Wash.

However, he said Mexico is expected to reinstate the tariff in response to a court challenge by a Mexican apple grower.

On March 2, the government of Mexico ended the long running 47.05% tariff in response to a ruling from a North American Free Trade Agreement bi-national panel.

A permanent court injunction seeking to reestablish the tariff on U.S. red and golden delicious apples was granted April 8 in response to a court challenge by Mexican apple grower Grupo de Comuneros de Tenango del Valle.

Since the injunction was granted, the Mexican government is compelled to restore the tariff until a court decision is reached on the merits of the case. That could take a couple of years, according to U.S. government reports.

Northwest Fruit Exporters received news of the hearing on the injunction less than one day before the hearing, he said. A request for a continuance was denied and Northwest Fruit Exporters has now filed an appeal.

“It could drag on for some time,” Archer said. “This is an odd situation and speaking with our legal counsel and others in the U.S government, they have never encountered a situation like this where a court has become involved with a NAFTA final order.”

Apple exports from the Northwest U.S. to Mexico have been strong this year, Archer said, running just 2% to 3% behind last year’s record movement of 10.6 million cartons.

U.S. apple growers have battled for more than a decade to restore unhindered trade with Mexico. Mexico’s anti-dumping investigation aimed at U.S. red and golden delicious apples started in 1996 and the first duty on red and golden delicious apples was put in place in September of 1997 at a rate of 101%. The complaint was temporarily settled with a suspension agreement, and U.S. shippers operated under a minimum price agreement from the spring of 1998 to about 2002.

Mexican growers terminated that agreement in 2002 because they were unhappy with the rolling average f.o.b. price that the agreement was based on.

A new antidumping tariff was applied at 46.5% in August 2002 and has remained in that range. Since November 2006 to this March, the tariff as been 47.05%, Archer said. A few shippers had lower duty rates determined separately.

In a March 1 announcement that led to the lifting of the tariffs this year, Mexican officials said the domestic apple industry in Mexico failed to supply data that showed U.S. apple shipments to Mexico in 2004 and 2005 caused depressed prices or prevented price increases for Mexican apples.