Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Turkish Hazelnut

c/o AFI(Association of Food Industries)

Some members of the task force on this issue met June 4 with representatives from USDA and a commercial counselor at the Turkish embassy in Washington.

We met first with USDA. They had about eight people there, though five senior-level staff members did all of the talking. The consensus among our contingent was that USDA staff is correctly performing the inspections on hazelnuts. USDA staff said it’s important for us to understand there are two issues here. The first is the grade standard for hazelnuts. The second is the marketing order. The product requirements in a marketing order do not have to match the specifications of the grade standard, so they recommended that if we’re seeking to make any changes, we try to do it to what’s required in the marketing order. If we sought and were successful in getting a change to the grade standard, we would have to go through the process to make a change in the marketing order anyway.

Changes to a marketing order have to be suggested by the committee that runs the order. In this case, that’s the Oregon industry. The committee is due to have a meeting in August. The group that went to the meeting is going to recommend to the task force that AFI be given time at that meeting to explain the need for a change to the order. Of course, we have to find a way to incentivize the domestic industry to agree to suggest any changes.

Our meeting with the Turkish commercial counselor was very beneficial. It was clear that based on her conversations with others she thought USDA had made changes to the way it was conducting inspections. She and others thought the problem could be rectified simply by requesting USDA return to prior testing methods.

We are putting together a letter to be sent to the counselor and to the Turkish Hazelnut Group with recommendations/information from Jeff Abels(Foreign Trade Service) on how to address this issue at origin.

The task force is meeting via phone this afternoon to discuss next steps.

As for the request that the association put out a statement saying the USDA issue has created a force majeure situation, three law firms have told us they do not believe that is viable, though all have said it might be so for contracts specifically calling for Turkish hazelnuts. All three, though, have said they recommend such a statement be done by individual companies and not the association.

As everyone is aware, imports from Turkey for hazelnuts have been stopped by USDA, due to food safety issues and concerns.  We will keep you up to date on any changes.

- Thomas Kim

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