Mexico lifts apple import duty

YAKIMA -- An import duty that restricted shipments of Washington apples to Mexico -- the state's largest export market -- is being eliminated, effective today.

The Mexican government this week announced an end to the 47 percent duty on Red Delicious and Golden Delicious apples from the United States. The duty added about $10 to the cost of a box of apples.

The decision ends years of higher costs for Mexican apple importers buying Washington apples that stretches back to 1996. Since that time, the apple industry has operated either under a duty or a negotiated price agreement that required importers to pay more for a box of American apples.

Mexico imposed the duty based on domestic industry allegations that Washington was selling apples in Mexico below the cost of production.

In October, a review panel under the North American Free Trade Agreement concluded that Mexico had used outdated information in claiming American farmers were "dumping" apples in its market. It directed Mexico to reach a new determination.

The Mexican government concluded late last month that it could not support a finding that dumping had occurred.

Jim Archer, manager of Northwest Fruit Exporters, an industry group that coordinates export programs for apples and cherries, said the removal of the duty will mean a level playing field for apple shippers.

Some shippers have enjoyed a lesser duty or none at all under special arrangement with Mexican authorities.

"Across the board, the vast majority of packers and shippers have been penalized by the tariffs. It has been an inequitable situation for the industry at large," Archer said Tuesday.