Tom Karst, National Editor
Tom Karst, National Editor

"Don’t make me stop the car.”

We have all heard — or said — some version of that message on some memorable road trip with our families.

The boys are fighting, picking on sister, or talking back in turn to mom or dad.

Of course, the warning is rarely followed by an actual stop.

It was the stern threat of action, the glare in the rearview mirror, that conveyed the seriousness of the situation.

“Don’t think I won’t stop this car, because I will!”

I’m guessing budget cuts related to sequestration and the fiscal cliff have been a little like the cautionary warning for posturing politicians.

The threat was motivation enough to straighten up and fly right.

Well, here we are, cruising along well enough but then, again, the warning “Don’t make me stop the car.”

Sure, Pops. Whatever.

All of a sudden, the car is slowing and we are coasting, kicking up pebbles on the rocky shoulder of the road.

Now there is a real likelihood that important government services will be cut, food inspections will be reduced and the economy will be gouged.

Whatever happens from this point on, chances are it won’t be good.


How about those berries? You just can’t hold back berries of any variety, it seems. Steve Lutz of the Nielsen Perishables Group passed along retail sales numbers for the top 10 fresh produce items for 2012.

Whole-year numbers for the year showed sales gains of 12.8% for all berries, aided by a 10.5% rise in volume and a 2.1% gain in average prices.

Berries are the top produce category by sales, followed by packaged salad and apples.

Fourth-quarter results showed that berry sales were up a whopping 18.9%, boosted by a 15.7% increase in volume and a 2.8% bump in average prices.

While berries were trucking along quite nicely, 2012 figures showed a reversal in tomato fortunes.

Perhaps related to low market prices through stretches of 2012, retail sales of fresh tomatoes slid 7.2% for the year, with average prices a gaping 8.9% lower than 2011.

Still, the strong performance of produce in 2012 has to be encouraging for fresh produce marketers.

Total produce sales for the year were 4.4% higher, helped by 3.4% better volume and a 1% average increase in retail prices. Through no real generic promotion investment of its own, the industry has collectively benefited from the shiny golden halo that fruits and vegetables consistently provide.

Pardon our glow — and get used to it.


Why should fresh produce commodities be subject to anti-dumping laws? Does it makes sense to require that foreign suppliers of fresh produce commodities to the U.S. adhere to dumping definitions crafted for ball bearings and widgets?

In particular, why shouldn’t members of the North American Free Trade Agreement enjoy free movement of fresh produce within the trading area?

My thought on the topic is fairly primitive and my knowledge of U.S. trade law far from exhaustive, but I question the value of anti-dumping actions against fellow members of the free trading bloc.

After all, isn’t the design of “free trade” to allow regions to benefit from comparative advantage? Washington state can grow better apples than anyplace in Mexico — sorry!

Doesn’t each trade action benefit lawyers and lobbyists more than help growers and consumers?

I asked a question to the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group about this topic.

“If you were to rewrite the North American Free Trade Agreement now, would you still allow anti-dumping actions between members of the trading block? Why or why not?”

Find the question here.

John Pandol, special projects manager of Delano, Calif.-based Pandol Bros., responded this way:

“In cases where one can prove that an industry or foreign government is following a policy of targeting a market by constantly selling below costs for sustained periods of time, for purposes of utilizing excess productive capacity or to undermine the production in the target country, I would allow it.

“That being said, it is not illegal in the U.S. to sell below cost (I am unfamiliar with the other two NAFTA signatories), so why should foreign suppliers be penalized and American sellers not?

“In the case of perishable produce, I don’t know before harvest what my cost is, what my sales price will be or even if I can sell the products. If you were to restate your question, should products covered under the PACA be subject to anti-dumping statues? I would absolutely say no.”

I have to say Pandol makes sense.

What do others industry leaders think? Are anti-dumping laws still needed for fresh produce?

What's your take? Leave a comment and tell us your opinion.