Several grower groups are excited about the U.S.-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement going into effect May 15, including fruit, vegetable and rice growers.

With the announcement by President Obama and Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos that the agreement will go into force on May 15, the projection is that U.S. exports will expand by more than $1.1 billion with duty-free access for major industries and agriculture.

More than half of the tariffs on agricultural products will be eliminated on May 15, with the remainder scheduled to phase out during the next five years, according to the facts gleaned from the agreement.

The rice industry is one of the most excited grower groups to see the free-trade agreement go into effect.

The technical aspects for rice export were explained in a U.S. Rice Federation news release. “The free trade agreement with Colombia offers important short- and long-term economic benefits to U.S. rice producers, millers and exporters. Upon implementation, a duty-free tariff rate quota (TRQ) for 79,000 metric tons (milled equivalent basis) of U.S. rice will be established.  Further, the Colombia agreement provides that the net revenue from auctioning licenses to export under the TRQ be split evenly between the U.S. and Colombian rice industries.”  

USA Rice Chairman Jackie Loewer said, “This is long-awaited good news for the United States and for the U.S rice industry, which stands to gain a sizeable export market in Colombia.” 

Colombia currently imposes an 80 percent duty on imported rice. U.S. rice sales have been sporadic, surging only in response to production shortfalls in Colombia.

According to the Rice Federation, trade agreements do assist with the export of U.S. rice, which accounts for 50 percent of the rice grown in the U.S. It was noted that trade agreements with Mexico, Central American countries, Japan, Korea and Taiwan have been positive for the rice industry.

The other grower groups making highly positive comments about the new trade agreement are those involved in export of fruits, vegetables and nuts.

From the most recent Department of Agriculture statistics available, in 2010 the United States exported $34 million worth of fruits and tree nuts, as well as $15 million of fresh and processed vegetables and products to Columbia.

As a specific example of an organization, other than the rice industry, looking forward to May 15 is the Washington State Potato Commission. On the May date, the 20 percent tariff on potatoes will be eliminated. The commission is hopeful that the $4.2 million worth of U.S. french fries exported to the South American country last year, which was a 76 percent increase over 2010, will mean even additional exports in 2012.