War Zone

The trade war between President Donald Trump and China took a dramatic turn on Aug. 5, when China signaled it was not tolerating Trump’s rants against the country and his penchant for announcing further tariffs on imports of Chinese goods. After trade talks broke down in Shanghai, Trump announced a 10-percent tariff on $300 billion worth of Chinese goods to take effect Sept. 1. China responded with the announcement it was no longer buying U.S. agricultural products.

The announcement “is a body blow to thousands of farmers and ranchers who are already struggling to get by,” American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall said in a press release. Some of the hardest-hit products include soybeans, grains and feeds, cotton, tobacco, dairy, livestock and meats, horticultural products, oilseeds and related products.

The most impacted ag products in California include tree nuts, table grapes and cherries, all mostly grown in the Central Valley, not Monterey County.

Most of Monterey County’s exported crops go to Mexico and Canada. Even though wine grapes are subject to the new Chinese tariffs, Monterey County winemakers don’t export a significant volume to China.

Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the California Strawberry Commission, says the Chinese market for California berries only opened three years ago and has remained relatively small. So far this year, China purchased $425,500 worth of frozen California strawberries, which is down by 65 percent at the same time last year.

“It wasn’t an important piece of the overall market for strawberry growers,” O’Donnell says. The biggest importer of California strawberries by far is Canada, which last year imported more than $272 million worth of mostly fresh berries.

Monterey County’s biggest industry may not be hit hard so far, but consumers will be. They are the next biggest losers after U.S. farmers and businesses, economists say, due to tariffs imposed by China on its goods sent here.

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Pam Marino joined the Monterey County Weekly in November 2016. She covers the communities of Carmel, Pacific Grove, Del Rey Oaks, Pebble Beach and North County. She also covers tourism, health, housing and homelessness, business and agriculture.

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