Proposed Tariffs on Specialty Imports Deemed ‘Devastating’

The newly proposed tariffs on dozens of specialty food imports from Europe could make those products prohibitively expensive, Specialty Food Association members told SFN.

The U.S. has issued two rounds of proposed tariffs on European products as a result of a dispute over competition between U.S. airplane manufacturer Boeing and multinational European airplane manufacturer Airbus. The latest list of proposed tariffs includes 100 percent levies on a range of specific types of pork products, cheeses, pastas, coffee, chocolate, olives, and other goods.

“If you import cheese that you pay $7 per pound for, it’s bad,” says Bob Marcelli, owner of specialty foods importer Marcelli Formaggi in Clifton, N.J. “If you import high-end specialty cheeses from small, organic farms that cost two to three times that much, then it’s prohibitive. If you are paying $25 to $30 per pound with the tariffs, how can you possibly sell that to a retailer?”

Marcelli, whose company specializes in higher-end gourmet products, many of which would be affected by the tariffs, says he and other importers have been stocking up on shelf-stable items such as pasta and olive oil.

“If something happens, we are insulated for a time,” he says. “But long-term, it would be just devastating.”

Mike McMahon, grocery and specialty food buyer at Carson, Calif.-based Bristol Farms, says he plans to work with the retailer’s suppliers to offset cost increases in the near term if the tariffs do take effect.

“If it’s not resolved in a timely manner, we may need to react to the market,” he says. “We have special relationships with growers and manufacturers, and we will work together to keep retail pricing under control. We have spent many years building these brands, so special efforts will have to be made to continue their authorizations.”

Marcelli says he has been fielding questions about the potential tariffs from his suppliers in Italy. European suppliers, many of which are small, artisan businesses, are afraid that the largest market in the world for their products could dry up.

“I tell them to talk to Airbus,” says Marcelli. “It’s not my fault.”

He noted that higher tariffs would also affect importers’ costs for customs surety bonds, which guarantee that duties and taxes will be paid on imports.

“Everybody’s going to pay more,” says Marcelli. “That’s the bottom line.”


Source: Specialty Food News

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