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Would A 20% Tax Keep You From Buying Most Imported Winter Produce?

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Winter tomatoes (and avocados and Mexican Coke), we hardly knew ye.

This week, atop the barrel of executive orders that have been issued by President Trump, sits the directive to build the Mexican border wall he has been talking about since the beginning of his campaign. Trump doubled down on his statements that Mexico would pay for the wall (despite Speaker Paul Ryan's comments about Congress "fronting the money") while a scheduled White House visit from the Mexican president was cancelled.

Let's be honest, avocados aren't the only thing at stake. But we like them?
Let's be honest, avocados aren't the only thing at stake. But we like them? Photo by James Ransom

Amid this kerfluffle, the New York Times reported that, on Thursday during the GOP retreat in Philadelphia, the President "appeared to embrace" an option for paying for the wall that would enact a stiff 20% tax not just on Mexico, but on all imported goods "with which the U.S. has a trade deficit".

If you take a look in your fridge or pantry, or peruse the produce section at your local grocery, what amount was made or grown south of the border? Mexico is the United States' third-largest trading partner (coming in after Canada and China, respectively). They import close to half of all the U.S.'s imported fruits and vegetables (in 2015, the USDA reported that the number was 44%, compared to 12% from its closest challenger, Canada).

I Vow to Stop Complaining About the High Price of Tomatoes
I Vow to Stop Complaining About the High Price of Tomatoes

Just think about that: Half of all of our imported fruits and vegetables come from our neighbor to the south, and the President is entertaining the idea of putting a 20% tax on it, plus other products (hello, tequila, mezcal, and beach-y beer) that come from them. Eater puts the effects plainly, and lists out several products we hold dear—avocados, tomatoes, sugar—whose prices could be expected to go up:

Higher import prices translate to more expensive goods for consumers and businesses—and if Mexican products are more expensive, domestic producers won’t have to lower their own prices to compete.

Suffice to say, this would only end poorly for America's lower and middle class.

Do you think a 20% import tax would affect you or people you know? If not, we'd like to know that, too. Tell us in the comments below.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that 44% of all U.S. fruits and vegetables come from Mexico—it is, in fact, 44% of all imported U.S. fruits and vegetables.

Tags: Food Biz, Farms