March 23, 2018 / 11:17 AM / a month ago

Oh nuts! China shoppers lament tariffs on U.S. almonds, pistachio and fruit

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - As Beijing and Washington exchange barbs that threaten a potential trade war, health-conscious Chinese shoppers are beginning to fret over what this could mean for their pockets: a potential jump in prices for U.S.-grown cherries and pistachios.

A shopper walks past fruit and vegetable stands at a supermarket in Changzhi, Shanxi province September 21, 2010. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

Close to 80 fruit and nut products from the United States are at risk, after China declared plans to levy additional duties on up to $3 billion of U.S. imports in retaliation against U.S. President Donald Trump’s plans to slap tariffs on up to $60 billion in Chinese goods.

U.S. exports of fruits, frozen juices and nuts to China amounted to $669 million last year, and it was the top supplier of apples, cherries, walnuts and almonds, with much of the produce coming from growers in California, Florida and Michigan.

“At the end of the day it’s us common people who will pay the bill because fruits will become pricier,” said one user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo service, where the potential U.S.-China trade war ranked as the most-read topic on Friday.

“American pistachios will become even more expensive. I will need to switch to use domestic peanuts from pistachios in my meals,” said another user.

Chinese imports of fresh fruit and nuts have surged in recent years thanks to the country’s rapidly growing middle class, which has given rise to a new generation of consumers willing to splurge on healthy food.

In a demonstration of their buying power, Chinese shopping portal JD.com sold 57 million cherries to Chinese consumers in one day during a shopping event in June last year.

These fruits and nuts are part of a list of 128 U.S. products that could be hit with tariffs if the two countries fail to agree on trade issues, China’s Ministry of Commerce said.

The two countries have, however, said they are in talks. The Trump administration says it wants to impose the tariffs in response to China’s “economic aggression”.

Still, not all Chinese consumers viewed negatively the potential higher duties on U.S. fruit and nuts. Some said they could find alternatives from Australia and Europe, with at least one saying the tariffs could be good for China’s own growers.

“These products all have domestic equivalents,” said the commentator on Weibo. “This could lift demand!”

A customer looks at fruit and vegetables on sale at a supermarket in central Beijing June 20, 2008. REUTERS/David Gray/Files

Reporting by Brenda Goh and SHANGHAI Newsroom; Additional reporting by Meng Meng in BEIJING; Editing by Dale Hudson

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