Jul 27, 2020
US potato industry calls for tariffs on EU frozen fries

The U.S. potato industry is asking the federal government to increase tariffs on incoming frozen fries from the European Union.

In a letter sent to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative on July 24, the National Potato Council stated that EU fry producers — specifically Belgium and the Netherlands — have advantages of exporting to the U.S. not shared by American exporters, which has led to a large increase.

“In recent years, imports of EU frozen fries have increased substantially,” the NPC letter said. “In 2015, imports of EU frozen fries stood at approximately 15,700 MT (metric tonnes) 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.

“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 U.S. potato farmers and makes it difficult for U.S. suppliers to compete with lower cost imported produce from these two countries.”

COVID-related issues have resulted lower EU prices, which led to “a surge” of fries to the U.S. the first four months of 2020, said Matt Lantz, a trade policy expert at Bryant Christie and longtime NPC consultant. Lantz said during the NPC summer meetings June 25 that EU imports from January through April neared $50 million in value.

Currently, there is an 8% tariff on EU frozen fries. The NPC is asking for a 100% tariff in addition to that.

“The NPC supports USTR imposing additional tariffs of 100% on imported EU frozen fries and believes such action would constitute an appropriate enforcement mechanism in the Large Civil Aircraft Dispute. It would also help address the surge into the U.S. of lower cost product from the EU and protest American jobs.”

The letter was signed by NPC CEO Kam 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.

In May, the New Zealand potato industry called on its government to limit frozen fry imports from the EU. Similar complaints were made by Australian growers.

Romain Cools, the General Secretary of Belgapom, a Belgian potato industry and processing trade association, responded to the NPC’s letter to the U.S. Trade Representative via Twitter. See below.

Top photo — National Potato Council CEO Kam Quarles leads a press conference in front of the Capitol on Feb. 26, 2020. Photo: Bill Schaefer Photography

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