(Sept. 17) WASHINGTON, D.C. — Despite being hit with an antidumping duty on two top export varieties, the U.S. will continue to be the top supplier of apples to Mexico in 2002-03, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Foreign Agricultural Service.

However, the imposition of the apple anti-dumping duty on U.S. red and golden delicious apples will cause overall shipments to drop, the FAS report said.

One spokesman for the Northwest apple industry said in mid-September that patience is wearing thin among exporters with the long-delayed implementation of an agreement signed last year that transfers all phytosanitary oversight for Northwest apple exports to Mexico from on-site Mexican authorities to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

On Aug. 12, Mexico imposed an anti-dumping duty of 46.58% on U.S. red and golden delicious apples. That duty was in addition to and separate from the NAFTA safeguard duty on apples which, for 2002, is 2% for in-quota apples and 20% for out-of-quota apples. Since the quota had been filled for this year, the total duty on U.S. red and golden delicious apples — with the exception of exports from a couple of Washington state companies that were not penalized — was 66.58% for the remainder of 2002.

The FAS said total Mexican apple imports were predicted to decline from 160,000 metric tons in 2001-02 to 112,000 metric tons in 2002-03.

While U.S. imports generally account for 80% of Mexico's apple imports, that market share will decline this year. In the 2001-02 season, Washington state exporters shipped about 7 million cartons of fruit to Mexico.

Jim Archer, manager of Yakima, Wash.-based Northwest Fruit Exporters said Sept. 17 that only one or two loads per week were headed to Mexico in mid-September. Northwest exporters were between seasons — finishing off the old crop and putting the new crop in cold storage before the fruit is cleared to ship to Mexico. He said that gives the industry some time to work on the tariff issue with Mexico.

The FAS report said U.S. apples are $10 per carton more expensive than before the antidumping duty.

South Africa, Chile, Canada, New Zealand and Argentina are among the suppliers that are expected to make inroads in the Mexican market if the U.S. antidumping duty is not resolved.

U.S. red and golden delicious apples are not expected to be imported until January, when the NAFTA safeguard tariff rate quota is lifted and when only the 46.58% antidumping duty will apply. Red and golden account for about 90% of U.S. apple shipments to Mexico.

U.S. apple exporters could attempt to send other varieties to the Mexican market, including gala, jonathan, McIntosh and mutations of golden delicious, the FAS report said.

Meanwhile, the FAS report said APHIS and Mexico’s plant health agency, SAGARPA, are almost ready to sign the work plan for the state of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, in which the inspection program will be completely transferred to APHIS.

Archer said Northwest exporters have been waiting for that to happen for over a year, as outlined in an agreement signed between the undersecretaries of the USDA and Mexico’s agriculture department.

Instead, Archer said growers must continue to pay the expenses of a Mexican office in the Northwest and the expenses incurred by USDA APHIS in running the program.

The Mexican plant health expenses are $14,000 per month, and the USDA/APHIS expenses run about $220,000 per year. Archer said growers are paying “double-duty” for inspection services — running about $400,000 on an annual basis — when APHIS is in reality handling all the work.