Utahns mostly eat imported fruit and vegetables, but the state is one of the country’s biggest tart cherry producers, behind Michigan. In 2018, production reached 41 million pounds, totalling over $9 million. But a local grower says the industry is at risk, and hopes to soon resolve a case in which it’s asking the federal government to protect it — and other U.S. cherry producers — from Turkish imports.
Last week, the U.S. International Trade Commission had a final hearing on whether it should impose additional tariffs on Turkey, which the Utah-based co-op Payson Fruit Growers said is unfairly subsidizing its industry and undercutting U.S. operations.
The United States was once the world’s largest tart cherry producer, but it has since been eclipsed by Turkey, which has doubled its US imports for each of the past four years, according to Chad Rowley, general manager of Payson Fruit Growers.
Payson and four Michigan producers, who together form the Dried Tart Cherry Trade Committee, have pushed the federal government to impose a 650% tariff on Turkey to match what they say is how much the country is undercutting them.
Rowley said he first noticed what was happening when Turkish cherries were selling for about $1 pound, compared to the $4-$4.30 per pound that Payson was producing.
“Our goal is not to put Turkey out of business or even stop Turkey,” Rowley said. “Our goal is [that] if they’re going to come here, they just play fair.”
While U.S. International Trade Committee officials could not comment on details about the investigation, the tariff appears likely to go through. In September, the ITC reported there was evidence that the Turkish government was indeed subsidizing its cherry producers, which then sold in the U.S. below a “fair value.”
The ITC will make its final ruling in mid-January, unless the Commerce Department — which makes a separate determination on the case — finds Turkey acted fairly.
Correction 4:43 p.m. MST 12/10/19 — A previous version of this story mischaracterized an increase in Turkish cherries in the U.S. — Turkey has doubled its U.S. imports for each of the past four years. Chad Rowley’s name was misspelled in a previous version of this story.