The Republic of India will lift the 20 percent tariff on U.S. apples in the next 90 days, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative announced June 22.

The tariff, enacted in 2018 in retaliation for tariffs placed on imported steel and aluminum, significantly hampered Washington apple exports. Once the state’s second largest export market, shipments to India dropped from $120 million in 2017 to just $760,000 this season, according to a news release from the Northwest Horticultural Council. The NHC has been engaged in negotiations to remove the tariff for years.

“This is a win for apples,” NHC President Mark Powers said in a statement. “We are eager to get back to business in India, for our growers to quickly engage in rebuilding this important market, and to once again sell our high-quality, healthful apples to the consumers in India.” 

The U.S. Apple Association also heralded the news.

Left to right: U.S. Apple Association's Chris Gerlach, Diane Kurrle and Jim Bair at the White House ceremony to welcome India's Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on Thursday, June 22. (Courtesy USApple)
Left to right: U.S. Apple Association’s Chris Gerlach, Diane Kurrle and Jim Bair at the White House ceremony to welcome India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, on Thursday, June 22. (Courtesy USApple)

“U.S. apple growers can now begin the work of competing for, and hopefully regaining, this critical market,” USApple President Jim Bair said in a statement. “We look forward to once again shipping great apples to this valued trading partner.”

The announcement coincided with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit with President Biden in Washington, D.C., this week. Bair said he and other U.S. apple leaders were honored by an invitation to be part of the Indian delegation’s arrival ceremony.

“Prime Minister Modi’s visit has underscored the importance of the U.S.-India bilateral relationship and our cooperation on a range of shared priorities. Today’s agreement represents the culmination of intensified bilateral engagement over the last two years, including through the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum, to deepen our economic and trade ties,” said Ambassador Katherine Tai in a statement.

With exports dropping precipitously over the past five years, the apple industry now looks to rebuild its market share. A 50 percent tariff remains in place.

“The apple industry applauds the repeal of the retaliatory tariff, which has been holding us back since it was put in place,” said Steve Reinholt, chair of the NHC’s Foreign Trade Committee, in a statement. “We are hopeful this will open the door to regain the market share we’ve lost.” 

—by Kate Prengaman