In a letter sent to the Office of the US Trade Representative on July 24, the Washington, DC-headquartered National Potato Council (NPC) and potato promotion organizations in eight states and regions requested that the federal government take action to increase tariffs on frozen fries imported from the European Union. Currently, there is an eight percent duty on EU frozen fries; the NPC and members of the US industry are asking an additional 100 percent tariff.
“These types of irrational import surges can prolong the recovery of our industry. We are hopeful that the Administration will seriously consider these impacts as they look to finalize the next round of tariffs against the EU,” said NPC Chief Executive Officer Kam Quarles. “The recommended tariffs would be applied by the US as retaliation in the ongoing dispute with the European Union over subsidies provided to Airbus that violate World Trade Organization rules.”
“In recent years, imports of EU frozen fries have increased substantially,” the NPC letter states. “In 2015, imports of EU frozen fries stood at approximately 15,700 MT (metric tons) with a value of $12.2 million. In 2019, EU fry imports were approximately 87,000 MT with a value of $101.2 million. This represents a 500% increase in volume and more than 600% increase in value of EU frozen fry imports over the past five years.”
The letter continues: “This trend is driven overwhelmingly by lower cost imports from Belgium and the Netherlands, which combined account for approximately 90% of all EU frozen fry imports to the United States. The price disparity is impacted by a range of factors, including EU agriculture policies that give EU potato growers advantages that U.S. farmers do not have. The result is that the considerable influx of product from Belgium and the Netherlands poses a growing challenge to US potato farmers and makes it difficult for US suppliers to compete with lower cost imported produce from these two countries.”
The situation has been compounded in recent months as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to a marked decrease in potato prices in major production centers, notably the European Union. This reduction in prices has further contributed to an influx of EU frozen fries, particularly from Belgium and the Netherlands, and placed further pressure on the US potato industry at an unprecedented and challenging time, according to the NPC.
The letter was signed by Quarles, as well as the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Idaho Potato Commission, Maine Potato Board, Potato Growers of Michigan, Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, Oregon Potato Commission, Washington State Potato Commission and Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.
The National Potato Council represents interests of all commercial potato growers in the United States and assists them in addressing international market access issues for both frozen and fresh potatoes. The US potato industry generates $4 billion in annual sales and supports thousands of American jobs both directly and indirectly.