The vegetable and specialty crop sector is vulnerable to market manipulation. That makes what Mexico is accomplishing through its increased imports of cucumbers and squash dangerous for the future of the American farmer, claims Georgia farmer Dick Minor.
“In 2018, the combined acres planted into fresh market cucumbers of the top five producing states was less than 30,000 acres,” Minor said. “A simple 10% increase in production is enough to totally devastate the marketing window and eliminate any chance of profitability.
“Mexico, over the last 10 years has dramatically increased production of cucumbers and squash. They have expanded production with no regard for other production areas or without regard for probability of making a profit.”
Minor produces eight different vegetable crops, which include cucumbers and zucchini squash. It is very common to produce both crops. But it’s also becoming increasing challenging to produce both crops when compared to unfair competition against Mexico.
“The last 34 years have presented many challenges to our vegetable farming operations. However, none has presented a threat near the scale of the dramatic increase in low-cost Mexican vegetable imports,” Minor said.
Many factors led to this unfair competitive advantage, as claimed by Minor and other Florida and Georgia farmers during Thursday’s U.S. International Trade Commission hearing. Labor tops the list. Mexico can pay its workers a small fraction of what farmers like Minor pay theirs.
“Mexico is able to offset its disadvantage in location with some of the most abundant and cheapest labor costs anywhere in the world,” Minor said.
Government subsidies also contribute to Mexico’s workforce growing more and more produce under protected acreage. Mexico can import its produce 12 months out of the year, which directly impacts marketing windows for Southeastern farmers.
“Florida growers understand that when Georgia starts they need to be finished harvesting and they plant accordingly. Georgia growers understand that North Carolina will start harvesting in late June, and when we plant, we also plant accordingly. Each growing area understands its window,” Minor said.. The factors that influence when and how much product they can produce and still maintain the probablilty of still maintaining a profit.”
Supply is the main factor that affects daily prices. Fresh produce needs to be sold and sent to markets as soon as it is harvested. Markets are volatile. They can surge quickly or drop instantly, as they are sensitive to change and planted acres.
“Today, low costs Mexican production is threatening every grower in the United States,” Minor said.