US clamps down on lemon juice imports

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Citric acid, World trade organization

The US government has initiated antidumping duty investigations on
imports of lemon juice from Argentina and Mexico, in response to an
industry petition that claims these imports are harmful to the
domestic lemon juice production.

Filed in September by Sunkist Growers, the petition alleges that these imports are being sold in the US at unfair prices, below both their own third country prices and their own cost of production.

"For the past three years, imports of lemon juice have been entering the US in increasing volumes and at declining prices, to the point of unprofitability,"​ said Mike Wootton of Sunkist, a marketing cooperative owned by 6,000 grower-members in California and Arizona.

The investigation, announced this week by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) and the US Commerce Department, includes lemon juice as an ingredient, with or without addition of preservatives, sugar, or other sweeteners, and regardless of the grams per liter of citric acid (GPL) level of concentration.

The investigation does not include lemon juice ready packed for sale to consumers, or beverages such as lemonade that typically contain 20 percent or less lemon juice as an ingredient.

The ITC is scheduled to make its preliminary injury determination by November 6, 2006.

If the Commission determines that there is a reasonable indication that imports from Argentina and Mexico are injuring or threatening material injury to the domestic industry, the investigations would continue, and the Department would be scheduled to make its preliminary antidumping duty determinations in February 2007.

If the ITC makes a negative preliminary injury determination, the investigations will be terminated.

According to Sunkist, which claims to account for the majority of lemon juice produced in the US, the nation's lemon juice industry's financial condition has dropped from nominal operating profit to a significant loss.

"The US market price for Argentine and Mexican imports has declined to a fraction of its level of five years ago. Sunkist cannot fulfill its mission of returning profits, if Mexico and Argentina continue to dump their lemon juice here,"​ said Wootton.

"US producers have lost significant sales volumes. US inventories have increased dramatically and related US employment has declined. Antidumping duties will remedy the situation by offsetting the unfair price advantage gained by these imports, and permit US producers to compete again on a fair market price level."

According to ITC statistics, the US imported 85m liters of lemon juice from Argentina and Mexico last year, which corresponds to $13.2m. This compares to imports of 89m liters and $16.4m in 2003.

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