Tart cherry juice tracking will better position growers

The U.S. International Trading Commission has expanded its tracking of tart cherry juice imports to help growers better analyze the impact on the domestic industry.

Head of the Cherry Marketing Institute Julie Gordon tells Brownfield the organization tried to bring a trade case against dried cherry importers dumping into the U.S. in 2019 but lost because of product commingling and coding issues.

“We figured out that there were multiple different items going into that one code and that was part of the problem (as to) why we lost the trade case,” she shares.  “That’s the exact problem we have today with tart cherry juice concentrate and juice.”

Earlier this year, Michigan Senators Debbie Stabenow, Chair of the U.S. Senate Ag Committee, and Gary Peters called for the Commission to break the tart cherry juice concentrate import category into four sections to include certified organic juice concentrate and tart cherry juice along with the conventional versions.

Gorden says the form of the juice matters.

“Seventy pounds of tart cherries going to one gallon of concentrate and if this code is being used the way we think it’s being used, it’s not concentrate to begin with,” she explains.

Following the 2019 case, Gorden says Stabenow petitioned for additional codes for dried tart cherries which she says has made a significant difference.

“The dried tart cherry imports have drastically reduced as a result of getting the accurate description codes,” she says.

She says the additional information will eventually help cherry growers propose a USDA Research and Promotion Program, which currently includes more than 20 other commodities like dairy, beef, pork, and soybeans, to collect assessments from importers along with U.S. growers to promote tart cherries.  Organic imports are exempt from assessments.

USDA recently forecast tart cherry production in the U.S. to decline by nearly 20 percent because of frost and other weather issues.

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