By Doug Palmer
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. trade panel on Wednesday revoked anti-dumping duties of up to 60 percent on orange juice from Brazil, dealing a blow to Florida growers who had pushed hard to keep them in place.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) voted 6-0 in favor of lifting the duties after concluding that the imports from Brazil no longer posed a threat to U.S. producers.
The duties on three major Brazilian orange juice processors - Cutrale Citrus Juice, Citrosuco Paulista and Louis Dreyfus - have been in place since 2006. WTO rules require countries to review anti-dumping orders every five years.
Florida citrus growers said they were "extremely disappointed" with the ruling and could file an appeal.
"Over the past five years Brazilian processors have continued to dump cheap product into the United States as their residual market and I cannot see any reason why they would stop, especially if the anti-dumping order goes away," Michael Sparks, executive vice president and chief executive officer of Florida Citrus Mutual, said in a statement.
Brazil, the single biggest exporter of orange juice to the United States, was this year forced to switch to shipping only the bulkier not-from-concentrate variety after U.S. health regulator the FDA, discovered the banned fungicide carbendazim in shipments from Brazil.
Brazil has committed to ending use of the fungicide on its citrus groves but can only meet the FDA's requirements while eradicating the chemical, by shipping unconcentrated product. Brazil supplied about half of the United States' imports of concentrated and not-from-concentrate juice in 2010, according to ITC data.
U.S. anti-dumping duties on Brazilian orange juice range from zero to 60.29 percent. Any duties collected since March 9, 2011, the fifth anniversary of the order, will be refunded, a Commerce Department official said.
An anti-dumping order on another Brazilian orange juice product was revoked in 2005 and the United States has no other orders currently in place, the official said.
Brazil has denied allegations it is involved in dumping and has instead maintained that the U.S. calculation used to determine dumping practices was flawed.
It won a victory at the World Trade Organization against one method, known as "zeroing," the United States has used to calculate anti-dumping duties on Brazilian orange juice.
Brazil is the world's largest orange juice producer and exporter. Its output is expected to fall this year because of dry conditions that reduced the orange crop.
Last month, the U.S. Agriculture Department forecast Brazil would produce 1.245 million metric tons in the 2011-12 marketing year or double the production of the United States, the world's second-largest producer.
The United States is expected to import about 200,000 metric tons of orange juice in 2011-12, USDA said.
(Additional reporting by Peter Murphy in Brasilia, Tom Brown in Miami and Rene Pastor in New York; Editing by Eric Walsh)