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California nut farmers brace for China's tariffs

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Staff Writer | April 4, 2018
Nut growers in the U.S. state of California are closely watching the Chinese market while bracing for the fallout from China's tariffs imposed on U.S. agricultural products.
California nut
Trade war   Chinese market continues to grow
Growers associations said the members have expressed worries about the 15 percent tariffs that took effect on Monday. China had announced to suspend tariff concessions on 128 items of U.S. products including pork and fruits.

"We certainly do not like to have any tariffs imposed as they raise the price of our product," said Richard Matoian, executive director of Fresno, California-based American Pistachio Growers.

"When we compete with other countries for market share, such as Iran, we could have our prices higher than theirs, causing Chinese buyers to shift to Iranian pistachios," he said.

Last year, the pistachios exports to China were 140 million pounds (about 126 million kilograms), representing 55 percent of the total exports.

"The (Chinese) market continues to grow, but it is also sensitive to prices," said Matoian.

"When the U.S. had a low production year in 2015 and prices rose, Chinese buyers shifted their buying to Iran (the second largest producer in the world), but as we had record production of pistachios in 2016, Chinese buyers shifted to the U.S. as the prices moderated," he added.

He said the exports also depend on other factors. "With the dollar being lower, it makes our prices cheaper in the foreign market," he said.

Pistachios, almonds and walnuts are among the biggest-value crops in California.

The U.S. state exported more than $2 billion worth of agricultural products to China in 2016-2017.

Among which, pistachios, almonds and walnuts represented more than 1.1 billion dollars, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture.