Washington apple growers cheer as India says it will end tariffs

Sales plummeted after tariffs started in 2019 as India was the state’s second-largest apple export market.

By: - June 22, 2023 5:00 pm

(Washington State Department of Agriculture)

India will soon end retaliatory tariffs imposed on American apples and crops such as chickpeas and lentils, the White House announced Thursday, signaling a win for Washington crop growers who say they faced significant losses since the tariffs were enacted in 2019. 

President Joe Biden made the announcement Thursday as part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington, D.C. 

“Today is very good news because it shows that the partnership between the United States and India can get us off of these retaliatory tariffs, help our farmers grow new market opportunities, and produce and sell our product in India, a growing market for our apples and lentils,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said on the U.S. Senate floor Thursday.

In 2018, the Trump administration implemented tariffs on steel and aluminum, prompting India to add a 20% tax on U.S. apples and other crops.

India was Washington’s second-largest export market for apples, bringing in $120 million in 2017. This season, Washington only exported about $1 million worth of apple products to India, according to Cantwell’s office. 

The tariffs will end within 90 days –  just in time for the 2023 apple harvest. 

Washington Apple Commission President Todd Fryhover said the agreement will again put Washington’s apple industry on equal footing with competitors in India. 

“The Washington apple industry has worked hard to develop the Indian market for our world-class apples, and this will help us try to regain our lost market position,” he said in a statement.

Apples are Washington’s top crop and make up a more than $2 billion industry in Washington, according to the state Department of Agriculture. 

Washington is also the No. 3 producer of lentils in the country and the largest producer of chickpeas, according to Cantwell. American “pulse crops,” which include chickpeas and lentils, made up a $180 million export market, but now, Washington barely exports $1 million worth of the crops.

Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Derek Sandison said in a statement that regaining access to the Indian market is “a big win.” 

“The lifting of retaliatory tariffs in India is great news for Washington agriculture, especially for Washington apple producers,” Sandison said. 

The Northwest Horticultural Council, the Washington Apple Commission and local farmers praised the agreement. Northwest Horticultural Council President Mark Powers said farmers are eager to get back to business in India. 

Jorge Sanchez, of Northern Fruit Company in East Wenatchee, said in a statement that producers of Red Delicious apples were hit especially hard by the tariffs in recent years. 

“This is great news for apple growers,” Sanchez said.

Cantwell and other members of Washington’s congressional delegation have pushed Biden in recent months to negotiate an end to the tariffs. The entire Washington state delegation in January sent a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo, urging them to help negotiate the change. 

Thursday’s agreement is a “major win” for Washington’s apple growers because the tariffs “severely restricted” apples from being sold to India, said Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash. 

Rep. Kim Schrier, D-Wash., added: “The removal of this tariff is a lifesaver for tree fruit growers in Washington state.” 

Standard reporter Jerry Cornfield contributed to this report.

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Laurel Demkovich
Laurel Demkovich

Laurel joined States Newsroom in 2023 after almost three years as a statehouse reporter for the Spokesman-Review. She covers state government, the Legislature and all other Olympia news.