CHICAGO (CBS) — The price of some foods could skyrocket, a Chicago businessman is warning, if President Trump follows through with his threat to impose new tariffs on all Mexican imports.
Peter Testa, president of Testa Produce, said there are certain foods, especially during the winter, that you can only get from Mexico because of the climate and that placing a tariff on these products could create a snowball effect that will be felt by every single American.
“This is all from Mexico. This whole palette,” Testa said. “Probably 80 to 90 percent of all the jalapenos in Chicago right now are all Mexican grown.”
As Testa took CBS News’ Dean Reynolds through his company’s vast 91,000-square-foot produce warehouse, it quickly became apparent why he’s a little anxious these days. With the Trump administration threatening to impose new tariffs on Mexican imports to force a crackdown on illegal immigration, it means Testa could soon have to pay more to stock his shelves. So could his customers — grocery stores, restaurants and all of their customers.
“Cucumbers, watermelons, green onions, blackberries, pineapples, papayas … all this is coming from Mexico right now,” Testa said.
Mexico surpassed Canada and China this year as the United States’ largest trade partner. In 2018, the U.S. imported nearly $372 billion worth of goods and services from there and while some of the biggest imports are automobiles and vehicle parts, the U.S. brought in $13.4 billion worth of fruits, vegetables and nuts.
“From a trade standpoint, I think Mexico has been an absolutely fabulous partner. I would not fault them at all,” he said. “I do not see the point in messing with a great partner.”
Testa says there’s no way to painlessly adjust. Food is not a discretionary purchase.
“You don’t have to buy a car. You don’t have to buy an iPhone. You don’t have to do that. Food? Everybody eats,” Testa said.
Avocados, for example, are the second largest fruit export from Mexico to the U.S. after tomatoes. Right now, one costs about $1.75 but if the tariffs go into effect and potentially jump to 25 percent in October the price of an avocado could go beyond $2.