Broad American and International Coalition Formed to Oppose Limitations on Domestic Blueberry Imports
WATSONVILLE, CA - A new trade coalition has formed, combining the might of growers, importers, distributors, purchasers, and suppliers. Titled The Blueberry Coalition for Progress and Health, this organization has come together to oppose limitation on blueberry imports, which includes the upcoming International Trade Commission hearing on blueberry imports.
“The domestic industry has earned double-digit operating margins in every year of the time period included within the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) investigation, which compares favorably to broader farm industry benchmarks,” stated Joe Barsi, President of California Giant Farms and a member of the Coalition. “At California Giant Berry Farms, our mission is to deliver high-quality berries and take care of our growers. We believe that the counter seasonal supply of imports has increased consumption in the U.S. and has helped the health of the domestic blueberry industry.”
According to a release, all members of the Coalition agree that imports are not a substantial cause of serious injury to the domestic blueberry industry. The release went on to say that the U.S. blueberry market is healthy and thriving. It is continuing to strive toward keeping up with year-round marketplace demand for this healthy and nutritious fruit.
“The U.S. blueberry market is thriving, and our goal is to ensure that we continue to fairly meet the marketplace demand for this healthy and delicious fruit,” continued Barsi. “Blueberry imports are crucial to U.S. consumers, retailers, and the U.S. economy, and they clearly contribute to the success of the domestic industry. We are launching this Coalition to alert America’s blueberry lovers and to educate decision makers on the stakes of their upcoming actions, and to prevent the destruction of the thriving and essential blueberry industry.”
Since 2005, the United States consumption of blueberries has increased by 300 percent. The release went on to note that the per capita consumption is at 1.79 pounds per person. If trade restrictions were enacted, this would limit consumers’ access to an in-demand product.
According to the Coalition, imports are crucial both to meet current demand and to continue to grow the market for the benefit of all growers, domestic and abroad.
“Our family has been farming in America for over 10 generations, and we are headquartered in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Our decision to farm in Mexico and Peru, in addition to the U.S., was in direct response from our retail customers to produce and deliver quality blueberries throughout the entire year,” commented Dave Jackson, Co-Owner of Family Tree Farms and a member of the Coalition. “If we could grow blueberries year-round exclusively in the United States we would, but seasonal crops like blueberries require farming in other countries to meet growing consumer demand throughout the year.”
As blueberry demand goes up, so too has the volume of supply. Fresh and frozen blueberries have grown over the last five years, as well as domestic shipments of both of these products. Production and sales volumes indicate that both domestic and import supplies have their own independent growing seasons.
Given the seasonal nature of domestic blueberry production, blueberries grown in the United States are essentially unavailable for 20 to 30 weeks a year. U.S. fresh blueberry production and shipments are heavily concentrated within a 20-week period, running from late-April to early-September. Over 90 percent of U.S. fresh blueberries are sold during the 20-week peak season.
Farmers in large blueberry growing states including North Carolina and New Jersey sell all their blueberries in the peak weeks. Farmers in other large blueberry growing states, which includes Georgia, California, Oregon, and Washington, sell more than 90 percent of their crop in peak weeks. The Coalition explained that farmers in every U.S. state except Florida sells at least 80 percent of its fresh blueberry crop within the 20-week peak U.S. season.
Approximately 80 percent of imported fresh blueberries enter the U.S. in off-peak weeks, an implication that the Coalition suggests means that the vast majority of imports do not compete with domestic blueberries.
For U.S. consumers, fresh blueberry imports help fill in these gaps in production. Given the lack of temporal overlap when the two sources of supply are present in the U.S. market, the Coalition proposes imported and domestic blueberries are better seen as complements than substitutes.
As we continue to report on the latest news in trade, keep reading us here at AndNowUKnow.