SPOKANE — A trade agreement between U.S. and India took effect Wednesday, priming the return of Washington as a major exporter to the megamarket.
Before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi levied a 20 percent tariff on U.S. apples in retaliation for duties on steel and aluminum imports imposed by the Trump administration, Washington exported $120 million worth of apples to India every year.
India was once the second-biggest export market for Washington apples, but exports fell more than 99 percent after the tariffs took effect to about $760,000 this season — according to the Northwest Horticultural Council, which represents the region’s apple growers and exporters.
U.S. exports of pulse crops to India fell from $165 million in the 2014-15 season to barely $1 million in the 2021-22 season, according to the USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council, an industry group based in Moscow, Idaho.
An agreement to rescind duties on trade between the countries was announced in June by President Biden but officially took effect Wednesday.
Though the development is good news for Washington growers, Tim Kovis, spokesman for the Washington State Tree Fruit Association, said the benefit will not be immediate.
“Washington producers won’t be able to ship millions of apples to India overnight,” he said. “It’s not a silver bullet. It will be a long recovery — but its progress.”
He said at their peak, Washington apples growers shipped over 800 million boxes of apples to India every year.
According to the Seattle Times, this quantity accounted for 53 percent of the Indian market share. Washington’s share decreased to less than 1 percent under the trade barriers.
The agreement was sought by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, who brought up the issue of apple tariffs directly with Modi during a February visit to India as part of a senatorial delegation.
In a statement, Cantwell said she could not be more pleased with the development.”With over a billion people, this is one of the world’s largest markets and represents a significant growth opportunity for Washington growers,” Cantwell said in the statement. “In removing these retaliatory tariffs, our apple growers can now accept orders from India and growers may make shipments as early as this fall.”
The agreement also lifts tariffs on U.S. pulse crop exports. Washington leads U.S. states in chickpea production and is the third-leading producer of lentils.
Prior to the tariffs, American growers exported $180 million worth of pulse crops to India. Now, barely $1 million in pulse crops are being exported.
Cantwell also discussed Washington’s pulse crops with Modi during her February visit to India, according to the statement.