Why this California garlic farmer loves tariffs

GILROY — California farmers hate Trump’s tariffs. Except maybe one.

Ever since President Donald Trump fired the first major shot in his international trade war, imposing a 10 percent tariff on Chinese garlic and other imports, Gilroy’s Christopher Ranch – America’s largest producer of fresh garlic — has experienced a surge in sales.

This week, the ranch has gotten so many additional orders that it’s adding overtime work shifts to clean, trim, crack, sort, peel, box and ship the 50,000 extra pounds of premium “California White” bulbs, pulled out of cold storage. Last year, with the market awash with low-priced Chinese imports, sales were in a funk.

The turnaround eases years of angst for the ranch in Gilroy, once dubbed “The Garlic Capital of the World.”

“We’re running at capacity,” said Ken Christopher, 33, a third-generation grower at the 60-year-old business.

Across the rest of the state, farmers who grow other crops such as cotton, walnuts, almonds and grapes are hurting.

The trade war started on June 15, with Trump’s decision to impose tariffs on Chinese subsidized steel and aluminum. China responded by imposing $60 billion worth of tariffs on U.S. goods, targeting many California-grown products ranging from wine and walnuts to honey and olive oil.

Almost all of Christopher Ranch’s garlic gets sold in this country. So when the U.S. market was flooded in recent years with cheaper garlic from China, the local product’s prices were undercut. The new 15 percent tariff raises the price of Chinese garlic, narrowing the price gap.

But many of California’s other crops, in contrast, are exported. All of our cotton is sold overseas. About two-thirds of almonds and 40 percent of walnuts also are sold abroad.

When China responded with its own set of retaliatory tariffs, these products were suddenly more expensive. Chinese suppliers started buying from other nations instead.

It’s been a tumultuous time for Livermore-based vintner Wente Family Estates, which has exported wines to China for 23 years. The family-based winery has not shipped a single bottle of wine to the Chinese mainland this year, vice president for international sales Michael Parr. Importers in China don’t want to pay the 15 percent tariff on that wine, on top of a pre-existing 48 percent charge for taxes and other tariffs.

Workers for Wente Family Estates, strips unwanted shoots from cabernet sauvignon grape vines that grow in the spring on the Silva Ranch in Livermore, Calif. (Jim Stevens/Staff) Bay Area News Group archives

Between 3,000 and 5,000 cases of Wente’s red and white wine are just waiting to be shipped. ”]

California Cotton Ginners and Growers Association’s Roger Isom describes the increased tariffs as “devastating,” with contracts being cancelled.

California’s cut flower business was looking to expand in China, but instead will focus on growing markets like Japan, Canada and South Korea, according to the California Farm Bureau Federation. Some of California’s 30 timber companies also report canceled sales. But because wood is not perishable and can be stored, companies are holding onto their product.

About 3,000 California farmers will apply for the federal Market Facilitation Program, which …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Politics


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