Before Mauricio Macri arrived to the United States to visit Donald Trump, the American president said to the press: “One of the reasons he’s here is about lemons. And I’ll tell him about North Korea, and he’ll tell me about lemons.”
The reason? In case you did not know, not a single Argentine lemon has made it to the United States since 2000. After assuring that they would be a menace to local crops, due to the fear of the pests they’d carry with them, a consortium of growers in California and Arizona (the only two states producing lemon in the United States) started and won a legal battle to protect American production. In 2012, the dispute went in front of the World Trade Organization, resulting in an agreement between the two countries which included meat and other products, including lemons.
Since then, Macri was elected president of Argentina, and he eliminated most of the taxes pending on agricultural exports, while getting closer to the United States; President Obama traveled to Buenos Aires in 2016 and Macri visited President Trump earlier this year, while experts from the US inspected Argentine Lemons.
The first shipment should come by mid-April; while the sector hopes to send more than 120,000 tons annually, the first batch will only contain 5,000 tons. The US imports 100,000 tons of lemons each year, with the majority of them coming from Mexico and Chile, two markets which fear the Argentine comeback.
The Economist advances two main reasons for the lifting of the American ban: the strong and longstanding relationship between Macri and Trump, and the fact that Argentina has a trade deficit with the US.
In the States, the decision has not been welcomed with great hopes: Californian producers are starting to think that Trump made the decision as a sort of retaliation because they voted against him on a large scale. This might not be the case, but so far the only explanation that the President of the United States gave was that “the lemon business is big, big business.”
Argentina is the greatest producer of lemons in the world, not bad for a country who doesn’t carry too much weight in the global market, representing only 0.3 percent of worldwide exports (Chile, while smaller, represents 0.35 percent, and Brazil, 1.2 percent). More than 1.5 million tons will be produced by Argentina this year, increasing by 10 percent compared with 2017.
This increase is due not only to the American market, but also due to the European one; the fall in Spain’s lemon production this year opens a new opportunity for Argentina with expectations to ship 200,000 tons of lemons to the EU this year.
After all, when life gives you lemons, you have to make lemonade, or something.