U.S. Probes Allegations of Spanish Olive Dumping

The U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. International Trade Commission are investigating whether Spanish olive companies are violating fair trade laws and receiving unfair subsidies.

Jul. 17, 2017
By Anthony Vasquez-Peddie

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The U.S. Department of Commerce and U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) have launched an inves­ti­ga­tion to deter­mine whether Spanish olive pro­duc­ers have been vio­lat­ing fair trade laws.

Dumped and sub­si­dized Spanish ripe olives are severely impact­ing our indus­try.- Bell-Carter CEO Tim Carter

Officials are look­ing into whether these for­eign com­pa­nies are sell­ing prod­ucts in the U.S. for less than they would in Spain, a prac­tice known as dump­ing. Such activ­ity would vio­late laws that pro­tect American pro­duc­ers from being under­cut by out­side com­pe­ti­tion. The probe will also deter­mine whether pro­duc­ers in Spain are receiv­ing unfair subsidies.

The Department of Commerce will ensure a full and fair assess­ment of the facts, and, if the rules are being bro­ken, will act swiftly to halt any unfair trade prac­tices,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said. The United States is com­mit­ted to a free, fair and rec­i­p­ro­cal trade with Spain.”

Subject mer­chan­dise includes all ripe olives grown, processed or pack­aged in Spain and sold in the U.S.

The inves­ti­ga­tion is the result of peti­tions put forth by the Coalition for Fair Trade in Ripe Olives, whose mem­bers are made up of Bell-Carter Foods, Inc. and Musco Family Olive Co.

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Dumped and sub­si­dized Spanish ripe olives are severely impact­ing our indus­try,” Bell-Carter CEO Tim Carter said in June.

The legacy and even the sur­vival of the U.S. ripe olive indus­try are at stake.”

Close to 32,000 tons of Spanish olives were imported last year at a value of $70.9 million.

Our ripe olive indus­try takes great pride in the indus­try it cre­ated, the high qual­ity of its prod­uct and the thou­sands of work­ers and fam­i­lies the indus­try sup­ports,” Musco CEO Felix Musco said in June. Without import relief, all of this is at risk.”

If any wrong­do­ing is dis­cov­ered and it is deter­mined these activ­i­ties are caus­ing harm to U.S. busi­nesses the Commerce Department will impose duties on those imports in the amount of dump­ing and unfair sub­si­diza­tion found to exist.

Bell-Carter and Musco have sug­gested those tar­iffs be between 78 and 223 percent.

Preliminary inves­ti­ga­tions have been sched­uled for later this year, and the case is set to wrap up in early 2018.

The Coalition for Fair Trade in Ripe Olives sub­mit­ted its peti­tions to the Department of Commerce and International Trade Commission on June 22.

The flood of highly sub­si­dized, low-priced imported ripe olives, prin­ci­pally from Spain, has con­tributed heav­ily over time to these indus­try fail­ures,” the group said in a state­ment. The U.S. indus­try would be much more com­pet­i­tive if Spanish exporters were not dump­ing their prod­ucts in the U.S. and if Spanish grow­ers were not receiv­ing con­sid­er­able gov­ern­ment subsidies.”

Carter lamented the shrink­ing size of America’s ripe olive industry.

He said the U.S. ripe olive indus­try was cre­ated in California more than 100 years ago and at its peak had more than 20 proces­sors and 1,100 American olive grow­ers farm­ing more than 37,000 acres,” but now there are only two proces­sors and 890 growers.

In December 2012, The USITC held a hear­ing in Washington as part of a $2‑million inves­ti­ga­tion into the con­di­tions of com­pe­ti­tion between American olive oil pro­duc­ers and major for­eign sup­pli­ers. The com­mis­sion’s report was released in September 2013.

The doc­u­ment, which was pre­pared at the request of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, exam­ined the com­plex global olive oil indus­try, and the con­di­tions con­fronting American olive oil pro­duc­ers who were rel­a­tive new­com­ers to an ancient trade with big stakes.

The report’s find­ings have been cited ever since in the ongo­ing leg­isla­tive efforts by American pro­duc­ers to level the play­ing field through Farm Bills, trade pacts, test­ing pro­grams for imported olive oils, and the estab­lish­ment of the Olive Oil Commission of California.

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