Will renegotiation of the deal spread our avocado supply too thin?
President Trump, he of the “America First” approach to trade protectionism, has big plans to revise the North American Free Trade Agreement, which the hyperbole-loving leader once called the “worst deal ever.” But if you’re one of America’s millions of avocado addicts, any significant changes to NAFTA could spell trouble for your next brunch plans.
Before NAFTA took effect on January 1st, 1994, import tariffs on produce were so significant that they all but eliminated the possibility of importing fruits and vegetables from Mexico. Coupled with other health-based agricultural policies, that meant that America’s Hass avocado stock consisted almost entirely of what could be cultivated during California’s relatively short growing season.
America’s rate of avocado consumption has tripled since then, and NAFTA is a significant reason why. According to Bloomberg, 75% to 80% of the avocados consumed in the US are sourced from Mexico. That’s because Mexico not only possesses amore land with the right climate for avocado cultivation, but also experiences a longer growing season. The same holds true for berries grown on Mexican farmland, which is a major reason why the days of barren produce sections in winter months is a thing of the past.
However, there’s growing concern that the Trump administration could impose new policies that limit avocado supply and increase prices. Laws against “dumping” produce (selling items that might otherwise go to waste for less than cost) could scare away producers worried about lawsuits. Seasonal tariffs, which aim to make easier for American producers to compete with imports grown in more favorable climates, could take an extra surcharge onto your next avocado purchase.
Such policy changes would signal the “beginning a tit-for-tat cycle that could broadly limit agricultural trade,” according to a coalition of eight fruit and vegetable companies seeking to preserve NAFTA’s status quo.
The avocado angle is just one of several sticking points in the already tense negotiations, which are set to begin their fifth round on Friday, November 17th. Though Mexico and Canada seem intent on preserving the spirit of free trade that inspired the original deal, the Trump administration seems intent to scale things back in order to fulfill its campaign promises to make American manufacturing more competitive. Hopefully whatever form of an agreement emerges doesn’t necessarily mean “America first, avocados last.”