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Cherry capital of the USA threatens by Turkish imports



WILLIAMSBURG, Mich. – Dorance Amos fetching a handful of spicy red cherries from large tanks filled with cold water to look for mistakes. "These will do well," he says.

The apparent gift conceals a grim reality: He has not made a profit for three years.

Mr. Amos is one of many Michigan farmers struggling amidst a barrage of inexpensive dried cherries from Turkey. The industry requested the US government to impose tariffs on imports, claiming that Turkish importers undervalued the fruits, and that the Turkish government subsidized industry unfairly. The US government said in June there was enough evidence to conduct an investigation.

"If we are not lucky with the duties, I do not know how one of us can survive," Amos said.

Doros Amos, managing partner of Amos Farms, is based in Williamsburg, Michigan, near cherry trees. Montmorency cherries are growing near Traverse City, nestled on Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan, about four hours northwest of Detroit. The region has become the cherry capitol of the United States, supplying two-thirds of sour cherry cherries. It fights against the state of Washington for the title, in which more sweet cherries are grown.

Michigan produced about 300 million pounds of sour cherries worth about $ 56 million last year. Almost the same amount was $ 107 million in 2014, according to USDA data. Pie cherries are used to fill and juice pies or dried and added to cereal bars and breakfast bars. Neat rows of cherry trees, resembling Mediterranean forests, line the highways in the area. The sandy clay soil and the proximity to Lake Michigan, which soften the climate, create a rich soil for the growth of fruits. Cake Cherries are a small crop compared to the much larger sweet cherry industry, which produced 344,400 tonnes of $ 638 million worth of fruit in 2018.

The Pie Cherry Industry agrees to freeze or destroy a percentage of their crops each year to ensure price stability for the overall market. Some processors in Michigan – the companies that mine, freeze and dry the cherries – are now selling old stocks of frozen cherries at discounted prices, as they are too expensive to store due to the tide of cheap Turkish produce. That has brought more cheap cherries on the market.

Mr. Amos, a fourth-generation cherry grower from Michigan, mowed 60 acres of pie cherry trees last year because the harvest was more expensive than the sale. [19659004] He is not sure what he will do this year. He hopes he has enough money to reap the remainder of his 375 acres by putting a mechanical shaker on a tree. The dissolved cherries fall into another machine.

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If he can not reap all the fruits, he may have to give up some of his orchards. This is a practice that allows pests to fester and reach nearby trees and farms.

Turkish imports of tart dried cherries nearly doubled in the last three years to 1.5 million pounds in 2018 and were sold for 89 cents a pound. US processors sell the same product, according to the USDA, for about $ 4.60 a pound.

The average price per pound that producers of hot cherries could demand dropped from 27 cents per pound in 2016 to 20 cents per pound last year, according to USDA data.

Brenda Oldebekking removes debris from a tank of hot cherries after harvest on Amos Farms while they cool down.

In a May letter to the Ministry of Commerce, the Turkish government denied the charges brought by the US cherry industry. The letter states that the programs for Turkish cherry growers are either no longer used or offer only minor support. Turkey also said it was concerned about the growing number of US government investigations. A representative of the Turkish embassy in the US declined to comment.

The US International Trade Commission issued a preliminary ruling in June stating that Turkish imports had "significant adverse effects on domestic industry". A final decision is expected early next year. At the same time, the Ministry of Commerce determines what tariffs must be levied if Turkish imports harm the US market.

Cherry farming is often a family affair in this northern Michigan region. Farms and processing plants have been owned for generations. High school graduates spend their summers with 12-hour field work together with seasonal workers from Mexico. Thousands of employees work year-round in the processing plants, freezing and drying cherries.

Nels Veliquette, Chief Financial Officer of Cherry Ke Inc. Earlier this year, he was forced to lay off 20% of his staff or about 25 people working at his dried cherry factory all year round.

Nels Veliquette, Chief Financial Officer of Cherry Ke Inc., together with his brother Bruce, manages the orchards and processing plants set up by his father and uncles in 1969. Earlier this year he had to lay off 20% of the employees or about 25 people It works all year in its dried cherry tree, but it will be nothing more than a tourist niche attraction. The regional industry, which has been securing livelihoods for generations, will die. He is more optimistic than most others.

"All this beauty exists because I can live on it," he said. "If I can not make a living, there is no farm here."

Write to Shayndi Raice at [email protected]

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