Bell-Carter Foods Warns That Proposed Tariffs on Imported Bulk Olives From the EU Could Compromise Economic Stability for California Olive Producing Communities

America’s Leading Olive Manufacturer Argues That Access to Global Sources Is the Only Way to Sustain U.S. Demand for Olives at Reasonable Prices

WALNUT CREEK, Calif.--()--Bell-Carter Foods, LLC, the country’s leading manufacturer of table olives, is urging state and federal lawmakers to oppose proposed retaliatory tariffs on bulk raw olives imported from the European Union. The tariffs, should they be implemented, will have a lasting and damaging economic impact on both the stability of Bell-Carter Foods’ homestate of California, where the industry is in decline due to its inability to offer competitive prices and a reliable and consistent olive supply, as well as on the hundreds of Americans the company employs. Moreover, the impending tariffs will severely burden the domestic olive industry in totality.

The fourth-generation, family-owned company, which operates in Corning, California, is driving awareness of the complex issues facing its business and state by appealing to lawmakers. Bell-Carter Foods is asking state and federal legislators to join its efforts in protesting the tariffs to ensure economic stability in Corning, protect planned capital investments in its local facilities, which will help meet growing U.S demand for olives, and ensure critical access to the global supply market to safeguard the viability of all U.S-based table olive manufacturers in the global olive business.

On August 27, 2019, Tim Carter, CEO of Bell-Carter Foods, presented the company’s detailed rationale for opposing the tariffs to the City Council of Corning during their bi-monthly meeting. In his remarks, Carter emphasized the many harmful economic effects the tariffs on imported bulk olives from the EU would have on the city of Corning, home to Bell-Carter Foods’ two production faciliites, which could include the stalling of a planned $10 million investment in plant upgrades and threaten the stability of more than 500 jobs in Corning, which is in Tehama County.

Carter further explained that, for the past 30 years, the entire U.S. table olive industry has relied on thousands of tons of bulk olives from global sources, including the EU, due to the undisputed fact that California’s olive supply can only support 35 percent of the U.S. demand. This staggering reality is further compounded by the fact that California acreage continues to decrease, with harvests falling by 11 percent annually. Coupled with the rising prices of doing business in California due to environmental challenges, labor costs and water shortages, the domestic market has become much less competitive compared to the EU and other global growing regions. Despite these challenges, Bell-Carter Foods has remained committed to and invested in thousands of acres in California, including more than 1,600 acres in Tehama County alone.

California’s olive supply has been further hampered by the slow adoption of modern and mechanized methods of olive harvesting, which has been standardized in other regions of the world, including the EU. This reality is a significant factor driving domestic production prices up and weakening access to a long-term, stable domestic supply. The lack of mechanizable, harvestable trees, coupled with the shrinking acreage and dwindling olive supply, causes the price of California olives to be significantly less competitive than those of global sources. That said, even if the tariffs on bulk olives from the EU are approved, sourcing California raw olives is a weak alternative for Bell-Carter Foods and its competitors. According to Carter, Bell-Carter Foods and its competitor olive manufacturers are aware of the ongoing challenges facing domestic suppliers and the critical need to diversify sourcing and import bulk olives from other regions of the world.

“While we support and wait for California growers to update to modern olive farming methods – which has become the global industry standard – we must rely on the global supply chain as consumer demand for table olives continues to grow and we strive to expand our business, create and protect U.S. jobs and insure investments in our local communities,” explained Tim Carter.

Addressing further pressures from olive growers themselves to rely more on a domestic source, Carter reiterated, that “even if the EU tariffs go through, the cost of replacing bulk olives from the EU with a domestic supply is currently not price competitive, nor can it keep up with the projected long-term demand with a level of reliability that meets the demand. In the current environment, the only way to ensure that U.S. consumers will continue to have access to the best quality, most reasonably priced olives is if all manufacturers and legislators continue to protect the viability of the global sourcing model.”

The United States Office of the Trade Representative (USTR) has proposed tariffs on bulk olives imported from the EU among a long list of other products in connection with the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute on a large civil aircraft. The USTR has stated it will not implement these retaliatory tariffs until the WTO approves the level of countermeasures, which can happen as soon as September 2019. In July of this year, Bell-Carter Foods underscored to the USTR the complexities of the olive industry and the negative impact of the proposed tariffs through public comments.

About Bell-Carter Foods

Founded in 1912, Bell-Carter Foods is the largest table olive producer in the U.S. Based in the olive-growing region of California, Bell-Carter Foods is a fourth-generation, family-run business of olive craftsmen with passion, expertise and dedication to creating the world’s best olives, with ideal taste, texture and color. For more than 100 years, Bell-Carter Foods has focused on providing innovative, best-in-class olive products, along with the industry's absolute best service, while employing more than 500 people. This resulting leadership position has made Bell-Carter Foods the ideal partner for retailers and foodservice organizations alike.


Maya Cass


Maya Cass