It’s all because of airlines, if you can believe it.
In 2004 the European Union accused the U.S. of giving $19 billion in what it called unfair subsidies to Boeing. The U.S. then filed a similar complaint to the World trade Organization accusing the EU of unfairly subsidizing Airbus. Following its playbook from the U.S.-China trade war, the Trump administration is now preparing to levy up to $25 billion in tariffs — potentially high as 100% on some items — on European products like cheese, wine, olives and olive oil, meats, and pasta, among copious others.
This could be bad for Westchester businesses.
“If a 100% tariff actually goes though it could have a huge effect on our imported items,” says DeCicco & Sons Chief Purchasing Officer Joe DeCicco Jr. “Retail prices could be doubled overnight.”
“Some products have domestic equivalents that are of similar quality, and consumers will adapt,” he says. “Some products just don’t have a domestic alternative of comparable quality — Parmigiano Reggiano cheese for example. Some products that may have a domestic alternative, like prosciutto and cured meats, don’t have the scale domestically. Will domestic olive oil production or wine be able to replace imports? The result will almost certainly be fewer choices and higher prices for consumers.”
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Carolynn Dilworth of Auray Gourmet in Larchmont says she’s already starting to see increases in the price of some products, most notably imported foie gras.
“Imposing 100% tariffs on imported food products including fine cheese and olive oil will increase prices dramatically,” she says. “Parmesan will go from $25 a pound to well above $30. The really good Vaca Rosa will increase to $40 a pound.”
Dilworth is also concerned how a tariff on olive oil will impact the local dining scene. “We for instance only use EVOO [extra virgin olive oil] in our dressings and cooking. The combination of increased cheese, charcuterie, and olive oil price will have devastating effects throughout the restaurant and specialty food business.”
“Once the tariffs go into place,” she says, “we will have to determine what price increases can and must be passed on to the consumer.”
“It would be a serious hardship on our business as well as other local importers, which is why we began this campaign to raise awareness and get the community involved,” Gellert says. “We are hopeful that even if the tariff does go into effect that not all EU cheeses will be affected since not all utilize Airbus.”
“I am hopeful that once a majority of the public, especially cheese-lovers, know what is proposed that they will make their voice heard through the petition. The government should not be using cheese as a weapon in airplane trade wars.”
If anyone might be more motivated to block these tariffs than cheese connoisseurs, it would be Westchester’s wine lovers. Cai Palmer of Rye’s Wine at Five says, “If the U.S. goes ahead with tariffs against Europe then major wine growing countries such as Italy, France, Spain, and Germany will be affected.”
“As a local wine retailer these tariffs are bound to have a negative effect on my business. If the tariffs increase the price of a bottle of wine by 75-100% then the ‘value’ of European wines will diminish but, sadly, I personally do not think that the consumer will simply switch to a domestic wine. The vast majority of Californian wine is already overpriced compared to a similar European wine and those that are cheap, are exactly that: cheap.”
“Personally, the tariffs will mean more work for me. We will look harder at areas in Europe that still offer value, and hopefully will continue to be perceived as good value even if they suddenly jump from $10 to $15 a bottle,” Palmer says. “Will there be a reduction in sales? I think that is a definite. Will my present inventory diversification change? Yes. I will probably end up selling more spirits, more Southern Hemisphere wines, and maybe the [state liquor authority] will see this as an opportunity to address the fact that off-premise retailers are still not allowed to sell beer.”