Association of Food Industries

2020 Nut & Ag Report

Diana Thompson
Anchor Ingredients

We expect to share – perhaps even before most people read this report – drafts of updates to AFI’s product specifications. More than 30 years ago, our predecessors in the Nut & Ag Section had the foresight to create AFI specs for four products sold by members of the section: cashew kernels, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts and dried apricots.

The AFI specs were needed to address ongoing quality issues the industry was experiencing with these products. The creation of the specifications put an end to many disputes regarding quality because the parameters were in black and white and contracts started to include language referring to the AFI specifications. The specs quickly became the standards against which those products were sold, not only to U.S. buyers but to buyers around the world. Still today, most contracts/purchase orders involving those four products include language about meeting the AFI specs.

The standards were adopted after much input from both a scientific and commercial standpoint. In fact, the introduction to the apricot standard says: “This standard outlines specifications for Fancy, Natural and Industrial Quality dried apricots. It is a consolidation of the USDA, FDA, Codex, Turkish government and U.S. trade standards, historically recognized by the importing community organized under the Nut and Agricultural Products Section of AFI.” 

At the 2019 AFI Convention, members of the Nut & Ag Section spent several hours discussing the standards and suggesting updates. Task forces were created for each item and those task forces have had further discussions. Shortly after AFI’s 2020 convention, in April, we expect to share drafts of the proposed updates with people throughout the industry. 

It’s important to note that no change to an AFI spec is ever made without seeking input from importers and suppliers of the product. The goal is to give all interested parties, including trade associations in producing countries, the opportunity to provide input to ensure the suggested changes are valid and attainable. The final step in the process is a vote by the membership.

All four standards are available on the Resources section of the AFI website: www.afius.org. Updated versions will appear on the site as soon they become final. 

I encourage all reading this to provide input. Even if a specification has been updated before you read it, we want to hear from you if you think we’ve missed something. We’re not a government agency, so we can make changes more regularly – as the need arises. What’s important to us is that we get it right – that each of our specs reflects and addresses the needs of those trading in that particular product. 

Working on industry specifications is something we can control. We know the products. We know what quality parameters are needed. As discussed in other places in this publication, we’ve all been faced and will continue to face for the foreseeable future with things out of our control, primarily tariffs. 

The uncertain nature of the tariff wars has created much difficulty for our sector. For the Nut & Ag Section, the China tariff situation has been more problematic than the European Union dispute because more items from our sector were targets. 

Several members within our section took advantage of AFI’s program through which companies worked together to submit petitions for exclusions from the punitive tariffs on Chinese product. Though we still don’t know the result of most of the petitions, filing them was a wise move because for a relatively small cost – when the legal fees were shared by the companies instead of each paying to file petitions individually – there’s at least a chance the duties will be refunded. 

There doesn’t appear to be any rhyme or reason to how exclusions are granted but for a comparatively nominal cost, at least our members gave it a shot. It’s another example of how membership in a trade association such as AFI helps individual companies and the entire sector. Those outside our membership may not have been aware of the effective dates of the tariffs or of the opportunity to request exclusions. AFI members knew what was expected to happen and we could plan accordingly. We further benefitted – as did companies across all sectors – when AFI joined others to successfully request an allowance be made for product that was en route to the U.S. when the tariffs were announced. That allowance saved companies millions of dollars.

I encourage those reading this who are from companies not already members of AFI to become more familiar with AFI and to consider joining the association. Most companies that are members of AFI have been members for many, many years. That speaks volumes about the benefits of AFI membership. 

 

Association of Food Industries: Serving the U.S. Food Import Trade Since 1906
3301 Route 66, Ste. 205, Bldg. C • Neptune, NJ 07753
(732) 922-3008 • Fax: (732) 922-3590 • afius.org • info@afius.org