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Sunkist Sour on Lemon Juice Imports

October 18, 2006|From Reuters

Lemon juice from Argentina and Mexico is being sold in the United States at unfair prices, causing U.S. producers to lose market share and cut payrolls, the country's largest marketing cooperative said Tuesday.

Sherman Oaks-based Sunkist Growers, which is owned by 6,000 members who account for the majority of U.S. lemon juice production, said the federal government should put in place anti-dumping duties that would offset the unfair price advantage of importers, making American growers more competitive.

The U.S. International Trade Commission is expected to determine Nov. 6 whether lemon juice imports from Argentina and Mexico are hurting the domestic industry.

If the trade body finds injury, it would then make a preliminary anti-dumping determination in late February, a Commerce Department representative said.

"For the past three years, imports of lemon juice have been entering the U.S. in increasing volumes and at declining prices, to the point of unprofitability," said Mike Wootton, Sunkist's senior vice president for corporate relations.

The investigation only deals with lemon juice used as an ingredient in other products. It does not include lemon juice packaged for sale in retail containers or beverage products such as lemonade that usually contain 20% or less of juice.

Sunkist said an increase in lemon production in Argentina and Mexico had boosted juice inventories, resulting in an increase in exports to the U.S. and lower prices domestically.

The Commerce Department estimated that $13.2 million of lemon juice was imported from Argentina and Mexico in 2005, down from $16.4 million two years earlier.

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