Michigan cherry growers face uncertain season over trade tensions

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American farmers have carefully grown their relationship with Chinese customers, but for some, trade tensions are souring the fruits of their labor.

CGTN’s Dan Williams reports.

Last year, Michigan produced some 164 million pounds of tart cherries and more than 18,000 tons of sweet cherries. The majority came from the area around Lake Michigan, known as the cherry capital of the world.

But this year, the cherry market faces uncertainty.

The Trump administration’s threat of more tariffs on China led Beijing to impose tariffs of its own on a range of U.S. products, including some varieties of cherries. While the majority of Michigan cherries are consumed in the America, farmers fear the fallout from more export-heavy states could cause significant damage to the overall industry.

“It will have an impact as we move forward, and we continue to hope to grow those markets,” Don Gregory, president of Cherry Bay Orchards, said. “We see that as the potential, but if we start losing those markets, every pound of cherry that you lose has to go somewhere else.”

Michigan’s wine producers have similar fears.

Eddie O’Keefe is the president and co-owner of Chateau Grand Traverse. The company has in the past exported wine to China, but said that with a 14 percent tax already imposed on U.S. wine exports to China, additional tariffs could make the market almost impossible to access.

“That wine that does not go to China has to go somewhere, and if it is not going to China, where is the natural place for it to go? Right here in the domestic market,” according to O’Keefe. “Conceivably, it could flood our market with a lot of wine that was not intended for here.”

Fruit growers and the broader farming community are watching the tariff developments closely. Many are concerned not only with the possible initial economic impact, but also the long-term consequences.

John Kran of the Michigan Farm Bureau is calling for both sides to reach an agreement.

“We want to focus on future trade opportunities whether it is to China or others in the Pacific area, or other parts of the world,” he said. “Last year, China bought about $20 billion of agriculture products from the United States. China has a billion more people than us. We would love to supply them with great Michigan or U.S. grown products.”