Posted: Thursday, November 29, 2012 12:00 PM
The federal government has decided to renew antidumping duties on honey from China, siding with domestic producers who say imports continue to threaten their industry.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has determined that domestic beekeepers and packers would suffer "material injury" if the tariffs on Chinese honey were lifted.
The decision upholds duties of roughly 26 percent to 184 percent of the honey's import value, depending on the company shipping the product.
The U.S. Commerce Department determined these rates countered the effect of Chinese producers "dumping" their product at prices below the cost of production.
Antidumping duties were imposed on Chinese honey producers in 2001, and the recent determination marks the second time that the two federal agencies have agreed to renew the tariffs.
The American Honey Producers Association decided not to oppose the expiration of duties on honey from Argentina, as producers from that country have generally scaled back production and increased prices in recent years, said Michael Coursey, attorney for the association.
The goal isn't to completely block honey imports into the U.S., since domestic producers are only able to meet roughly half the domestic demand, he said.
However, the association pressed for renewed duties against Chinese honey because it said producers in that country have increased their output by about 75 percent since the order was established.
"If the order is revoked, imports from China will once again surge into the U.S. market," the association said in a document filed with the ITC.
The European Union and Canada require "rigorous laboratory testing" to ensure honey doesn't contain antibiotics or chemicals, so Chinese producers are less eager to ship to those markets than to the U.S., which has lower standards, the association said.
Chinese honey producers obviously still have an interest in exporting to the U.S., as they have used "circumvention schemes" to avoid the duties, the association said.
"They've really tried every trick in the book," said Coursey. "The incentive to get honey into the U.S. is so great, they will do anything."
For example, Chinese companies have falsely claimed the product originated in India or Russia or they've mislabeled it as rice syrup, he said.
Such schemes were very effective immediately after antidumping duties were enacted, continuing the "dire situation" for domestic producers, Coursey said.
U.S. customs officials have recently grown more adept at stopping them, but the duties remain necessary to provide relief for domestic honey producers, he said.
Chinese companies that export honey to the U.S. did not challenge the renewal of antidumping duties.