CHERRY HARVEST

Cherries wait for harvest in an Old Mission Peninsula orchard.

From Staff Reports

TRAVERSE CITY — A year-long effort by U.S. tart cherry growers and processors to slow the flow of underpriced dried cherries from Turkey was shot down Tuesday.

The United States International Trade Commission ruled that the domestic cherry industry “is not materially injured or threatened with material injury by reason of imports of dried tart cherries from Turkey.”

“This decision is unacceptable and ignores the facts: Turkish exporters have decimated Michigan’s cherry industry,” U.S. Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich. said in a prepared statement. “I am outraged that the ITC has chosen to ignore its own previous determinations and side with Turkish exporters over Michigan cherry growers.”

The U.S. Department of Commerce on Dec. 6 officially determined that dried cherries were being subsidized by the Turkish government and sold in the U.S. at less than fair value.

Underpriced cherries have piled into the U.S. market in massive quantities in recent years. The Department of Commerce said imports of dried tart cherries from Turkey in 2018 were valued at an estimated $1.2 million.

But Tuesday’s ITC decision means no antidumping and countervailing duty orders will be issued. Those tariffs were the aim of the Dried Tart Cherry Trade Committee, which includes the Cherry Central Cooperative in Traverse City, Graceland Fruit, Inc. in Frankfort, Payson Fruit Growers Coop in Payson, Utah, Shoreline Fruit, LLC in Traverse City, and Smeltzer Orchard Co. in Frankfort.

Representatives of the trade group could not immediately be reached for comment on the ruling.

Nels Veliquette, on the board of directors at Shoreline Fruit LLC and vice president and CFO for Cherries R Us/Cherry Ke, testified at a December ITC hearing alongside Sen. Peters.

“We have made every effort to show the real harm that’s being done here,” Veliquette said after that hearing. “We had to demonstrate a real threat to our industry. We saw the numbers playing out and we saw our customers leaving for the cheaper imported cherries and we knew we had to do something.”

A report that details the ITC’s findings won’t be available until Feb. 18.

“Michigan cherry growers have enough challenges without having to deal with foreign competitors who cheat and violate our trade laws,” U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D- Mich. said in a prepared statement. “I am outraged that the International Trade Commission has failed to hold Turkey accountable after investigations clearly showed egregious violations of the rules.”