Growers Keep an Eye on U.S.-China Trade Talk

Published online: Apr 24, 2018 Articles Jen Lynds, Bangor Daily News
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Source: Fiddlehead Focus

Officials at the Maine Potato Board are watching events in Washington, D.C., to see how a trade dispute between the United States and China might impact the industry.

Don Flannery, executive director of the potato board, said during a recent interview that so far, potatoes are “off the radar” in a dispute in which both countries are eyeing tariffs on imported goods.

“We are certainly keeping a close eye on it, because our product could be on the list at any time,” Flannery noted.

Earlier this month, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced plans to impose a 25 percent tariff on $50 billion of U.S. goods, including soybeans, aircraft and automobiles. The ministry said the tariffs would be imposed on 106 products under 14 categories. The implementation date depends on the U.S. and when it imposes tariffs on Chinese products. That prompted President Donald Trump to threaten another $100 billion in tariffs in retaliation.

In the latest move, China’s Ministry of Commerce announced on April 17 that Chinese importers of U.S. sorghum, used by the Chinese for animal feed and brewing alcohol, would be required to put down a 178.6 percent deposit in anticipation of anti-dumping tariffs. The deposits could discourage imports of U.S. sorghum, hurting American producers.

Canada, Mexico and China comprise three of the top five export markets for U.S. potato products, according to the National Potato Board.

“We are monitoring this situation closely and reinforcing the value of U.S. potato exports to the economy,” said Kam Quarles, vice president of public policy for the national organization.

Flannery of the Maine Potato Board said officials are watching whether the tariffs imposed by the U.S will result in the Chinese reducing their overall import of potatoes.

“China does import a number of potatoes because they are an alternative to rice,” he said. “But if they decide to seek other alternatives, that has a trickle-down-effect on us.”

He also said that the tariffs already imposed “could really impact farmers.”

The executive director pointed out that growers use steel and aluminum extensively on farms, particularly for construction.

“If the tariffs on steel and aluminum increase the price of raw materials, agriculture will suffer,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.