If you’re a highbush or lowbush blueberry grower, all eyes are on January 12. That’s when the U.S. International Trade Commission will examine the case of whether American blueberry growers have suffered economic injury as a result of imports from Canada and other countries. With most of Canada’s highbush blueberry production (96%) concentrated in British Columbia, the issue is pertinent to 600 growers there.
In a new development, an international blueberry coalition – consisting of many major American blueberry producers -- announced its opposition a week before the hearing. The Blueberry Coalition for Progress & Health argues that imports are not the issue with consumer demand rising to an all-time high of 1.79 pounds per capita. Coalition members such as California Giant Berry Farms and Driscoll’s claim that imports are crucial to meet demand and grow the market. Interestingly, some of these coalition members have operations outside the U.S.
The coalition says about 80 per cent of imported fresh blueberries enter the U.S. in off-peak weeks, outside of the late-April to early-September season.
Jack Bates, chair of the British Columbia Blueberry Council, notes that fresh blueberries from Mexico and Peru were arriving in Lower Mainland grocery stores at prices cheaper than frozen during the holiday season.
The BC Blueberry Council has been putting its case together since last September. Working with trade lawyers in the U.S, the council’s defense is being funded by the Canadian government, BC government and industry.
“The case is moving forward relatively quickly,” says Bates. “A decision is expected by June 2021.”
More information on the International Blueberry Coalition is available here: https://bit.ly/2JTTZ9c
Source: Business Wire January 6, 2021.