Valley farmers enthusiastic over emerging markets

FRESNO, Calif.

A high-ranking US government official came to the Valley to talk about expanding world trade opportunities.

Just as almond blossoms have popped open, new agricultural opportunities have opened up around the globe.

Brian Grunenfelder is the Deputy Assistant US Trade Representative. Grunenfelder updated Madera County farmers about new developments on trade agreements.

Farmers complained about costly duty fees, or tariffs, on exported produce.

Tom Rogers of the Madera County Farm Bureau said, "It's the tariffs getting into other countries. We grow I believe the safest product in the world and we just need the opportunity to get it into other countries."

South Korea is an emerging market for valley citrus. More fruit will be shipped there as tariffs are reduced.

Grunenfelder explained, "We're going to see those start to come down. For example on fresh oranges, just to give you an example, when the agreements implemented on March 15th we'll see the tariff fall from 50 percent to 30 percent."

Global demand for Valley almonds has exploded in recent years. But some growers like Bill Wattenberger said meeting the growing demand will be difficult during drought years.

Wattenberger said, "Production unfortunately is tied to water. Without water there's not going the production to maintain this market."

Grunenfelder said the US has also established strong trade agreements with the countries of Colombia and Panama. "They also are buying intermediate products and consumer products, fresh fruits, vegetables, there are some opportunities there for us."

Grunenfelder added Russia is also a growing market for US grown produce. Last year Russia bought a billion dollars' worth of agricultural products.

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