Trade

Sales of American Cherries to China Collapse

JM Ashby
Written by JM Ashby

There's been a lot of talk about the total collapse of soybean sales after Trump imposed tariffs on over $250 billion in Chinese goods, prompting China to retaliate against American agriculture, but it's far from the only crop that has been harmed by Trump's trade war.

According to customs data reviewed by Reuters, sales of American cherries that were previously exported to China have dropped by nearly 90 percent and, as you might have guessed, our loss has been been someone else's gain.

American cherries are slowly being replaced by cherries grown in Uzbekistan.

May was the last month for which figures were available at the time of writing, typically the first big month in China’s cherry import season. Supplies from Uzbekistan leapt to nearly half of the May total, Reuters’ calculations show, from zero a year earlier, while the U.S. share of the cherry import pie shrank to 38% from nearly 80% in May 2018 - and a near monopoly in May 2017. [...]

For Victor Wang, the China representative of U.S. Northwest Cherry Growers, it’s now a case of trying keep head above water.

Wang said it took 17 years of marketing and government lobbying to help make U.S. cherries some of the most coveted fruits in China - at one stage his suppliers were even exporting more to China than across the border to Canada. But that all changed in 2018, when two rounds of Chinese tariff hikes added 40 percentage points to import charges.

Seventeen years of hard lobbying to develop a market that Trump wiped out in one afternoon in 2018.

Trump's trade war will eventually end, either when a new president is elected or he simply gets bored with it, but not all of the damage can be undone. China and the other nations Trump's has picked fights with will not immediately resume all of their previous purchases in equal volume and some of them may never. American exporters will have to provide foreign importers with good reasons why they shouldn't permanently replace their American suppliers.

I believe it should be a priority of the next president and Democratic Congress to rewrite the trade laws of the mid 20th century so that no future president can abuse their powers the way Trump has. The ambiguity of a Cold War-era law intended to allow President John F. Kennedy to block dangerous imports from Cuba has allowed Trump to start trade wars in 2018 and 2019 by baselessly claiming that your cheap sneakers are a threat to "national security."

  • muselet

    Cherry growers have long been dependent upon exports.

    Twenty or so years ago (I assume things haven’t changed much since), California’s cherry growers relied on the Japanese market for viability: the orchards at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley produced very early cherries, which were ripe in time for the Cherry Blossom Festival. Those cherries were contracted for at least a year in advance, at startlingly high prices. The profits from those April cherries paid the bills for the rest of the year.

    I would expect the Northwest Cherry Growers to have had much the same arrangement with China.

    Seventeen years of hard lobbying to develop a market that Trump wiped out in one afternoon in 2018.

    Hey, it’s easier to destroy than it is to build. Especially for a petulant blowhard.

    –alopecia

  • stacib23

    It is going to take at least a decade for the US to recover from the trump nightmare.

  • Aynwrong

    If a cherry farmer (or any other kind) is negatively affected by this lunacy I genuinely hope that this individual did indeed vote for the bumptious nitwit. That way the damage to his/he or financial interests are at least well deserved. If however this farmer had the good sense to NOT vote for him, then I’m genuinely sympathetic.

  • Dread_Pirate_Mathius

    Here’s how this plays out:

    1. Republicans f*** something up.
    2. Eventually, the Republican(s) get ousted in favor of Democrats.
    3. The Democrats do the slow and painful work of fixing things.
    4. Just as things start to turn around, the Republicans blame the “slow recovery” on the Democrats.
    5. The Democrat is replaced by a Republican.
    6. The fruits of the Democrats’ groundwork pays off and things well.
    7. The Republican takes the credit.
    8. Claiming that it was Republican policies which created the good situation, they reverse all the Democrats’ policies.
    9. Things turn bad, and they blame the Democrats.

    …. and repeat …

    • Badgerite

      I’m not sure that’ll work next time around. They’ve pulled the same gambit too many times.

      • Aynwrong

        Let’s hope.

    • JMAshby

      Yes