The US Apple Association (USApple) has urged congress in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee to reduce the trade tariff for US apple exports to Mexico.

USApple immediate past chairman John Rice, of Rice Fruit Company, said US apple growers and shippers had encountered challenges because of the 46.58% import tariffs implemented by Mexico in August 2002 on US Red and Golden Delicious apples.

"An open Mexican market without restrictive trade barriers is important to all apple-producing states and the entire US apple industry," testified Rice. "Apples that would have gone to Mexico in a free-trade environment are now staying in this country, causing market surpluses and low prices for all U.S. apple growers."

Mexico's import duty on Red and Golden Delicious apples was imposed in August 2002 as a result of a 1997 anti-dumping case brought by Mexican producers against the US industry.

"The U.S. apple industry's goal is to eliminate the onerous and unfair import duty, and negotiate a settlement agreement that allows reasonable market access for the 2003 crop season," testified Rice.

Rice testified as the only specialty crop producer before the full Senate Finance Committee in a special hearing designed to look at Mexican trade barriers to US agricultural exports, US Apple said.