The head of SPC has returned fire to the European Union official who claimed any move to put tariffs on cheap imported tomatoes would threaten future free-trade agreements.
The EU’s trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom claimed last week that a recent review by the Anti-Dumping Commission on Italian tinned tomatoes could cause problems.
‘‘At political level, the commission has made Australia aware that the imposition of these measures has the potential to develop into a significant trade irritant given its systemic implications and may even undermine support for a future free trade agreement with Australia,’’ she said.
Former Italian agriculture minister Paolo De Castro also claimed the EU could take Australia to the World Trade Organisation if any action was taken.
SPC managing director Reg Weine claimed the comments were aimed at intimidating the Federal Government.
‘‘The comments by (the) EU Trade Minister and Mr De Castro regarding the ruling by Australia’s Anti-Dumping Commission are clearly an attempt to pressure our government,’’ Mr Weine said.
‘‘I can only reiterate the facts that were presented when the ADC initially ruled in favour of Aussie farmers and home-grown tomatoes.’’
He claimed that Italian tinned tomatoes had caused significant damage to SPC’s profitability and hurt Australian farmers, who could not compete against generous EU subsidies.
‘‘In total, 105 importers of Italian tomatoes have been found to have illegally dumped product in our market and they seem determined to stop at nothing until they have driven us out of business, our growers have deserted their crops and they have 100 per cent of the market.’’
The Anti-Dumping Commission recommended import duties be placed on brands of imported tomatoes that were found to have illegally dumped product in Australia.
In SPC’s submission to the Anti-Dumping Commission, the food processor claimed the Italian tomato industry had received more than $1.2billion in subsidies between 2010 and 2014. SPC started taking action against Italian tomato exporters in 2013.