The US Department of Commerce (DOC) is investigating whether imports of lemon juice from South Africa and Brazil resulted in “dumping”.

Dumping is when products from one country are sold in a foreign country for less than what they cost in the domestic market from where the products originated, thus flooding the foreign market with prices that are considered to be unfair.

In December 2021, Ventura Coastal, a California-based manufacturer of customised blends of citrus fruit juices, pulp, oils and purees, lodged a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (USITC).

A statement by the commission dated 11 February sets out that it determined that there is “a reasonable indication that a US industry is materially injured” by imports of lemon juice from South Africa and Brazil, allegedly sold in the US at less than fair value.

As a result of the commission’s finding, the US DOC has had to launch its own investigation of imports of lemon juice from these two countries. According to a statement issued by the commission, a preliminary finding of whether “dumping” took place, could be made known by early June this year.

The investigation relates to all forms of lemon juice, including concentrate. Lemon juice packed in retail-sized containers or beverages containing 20% or less lemon juice is not covered by the investigation.

“Lemon juice is typically extracted from fresh lemons that are not suitable for the fresh markets but may also be produced from fresh lemons diverted from fresh markets when the quantity available exceeds fresh market demand,” the commission states.

According to Rudi Richards, general manager of the SA Fruit Juice Association (SAFJA), the US DOC has sent questionnaires to be completed by SA companies that export lemon juice to the US.

“The companies will now proceed with the completion thereof and in this regard, SAFJA will assist the industry. These will then be considered by the US DOC to determine whether dumping has indeed occurred and to what extent and if so, thereafter the implications on the US industry and possible protective duties,” says Richards.

According to SAFJA data, in 2020 SA exported lemon concentrate to the value of $8.8 million to the US. It was about 6.3% of this type of import by the US that year.

Richards says, since there has only been a preliminary decision, exports of lemon juice from SA are still continuing. He points out that Ventura Coastal has previously brought similar complaints of dumping against Argentinian and Mexican imports.

“We are not taking this lying down. It is a bit of a David vs Goliath struggle, but we will do everything we can to protect our farmers and the industry because the citrus industry is very important for SA,” says Richards.

Information courtesy of FIN24.

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