When politics hit the dinner plate

Tariffs are in the headlines the world over these days. Most of the news emanates from the US, where President Donald Trump has threatened tariffs on a number of goods in various countries and regions. While food lovers might want to ‘stay out of politics’, that position is becoming increasingly untenable. In the most recent volley in the trade dispute between the US and EU, the proposed tariffs might drastically affect the price and availability of items that US consumers love to eat and drink.


Back in April, Trump threatened tariffs on foods like Roquefort cheese, wine, and olive oil. Now the list has expanded to include an additional 89 foods including Scotch whisky, olives, and more types of cheese. The tariff on olive oil could be as much as 100 percent, while others hover around 25 percent. Unlike some agricultural products, the US cannot produce enough olive oil to fully supply domestic consumption, so if you live in the US and use the stuff, be prepared to pay nearly twice as much for it (or stockpile a supply now). 

As these trade disputes show, there is no industry or area that is immune to political issues. While the tariffs discussed above have not taken effect (and there is some reason to believe an agreement will be reached), the mere threat of them can affect prices and change consumer habits. If tariffs are enacted, it is not only US consumers who will feel the pinch; producers will face the effects as well. Farmers in the US know this all too well – they have been dealing with price volatility and the shuttering of one of their largest markets. due to the ongoing disputes between China and the US. Shopping and eating are inherently political acts, and if you are displeased with the effects you see in the markets or in your pocketbook, you should make it known to your elected officials. 

Photo of Flavorfully infused oils from The Minimalist at The New York Times by Mark Bittman

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