Blueberries are native to North America, primarily in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada.
Despite this, foreign blueberries are commonly sold in the US, especially during the winter months. Chile, Mexico, Peru and other countries produce and export significant amounts of blueberries to the US. As a result, the US International Trade Commission kickstarted an investigation into whether foreign blueberry production is harming the American blueberry industry. On Thursday, the ITC announced its conclusion, and it’s not quite to the liking of the American blueberry producers.
Blueberry farmers had noticed, over the past couple of decades, an uptick in imports from countries such as Chile and Peru, but they didn’t pay them quite so much attention. After all, those southern-hemisphere countries were selling their blueberries during the northern hemisphere’s winter, when blueberry production domestically was low.
That started to change when some countries, most notably Mexico, began exporting blueberries to the US during the American growing season, directly competing with blueberry growers in southern American states such as Florida and Georgia. Those growers successfully lobbied the Trump administration to begin an investigation back on September 29, hoping for some kind of tax or tariff that could help them compete with cheaper imports.
The ITC, though, announced that it will not take action. In a press release, the ITC said that it had “determined that fresh, chilled, or frozen blueberries are not being imported into the United States in such increased quantities as to be a substantial cause of serious injury, or the threat of serious injury, to the domestic industry producing an article like or directly competitive with the imported article.”
The blueberry industry disagrees. In a statement, the American Blueberry Growers Alliance said that it is “disappointed” by the outcome and that it disagrees with the findings. “The outcome of this investigation reveals deficiencies in U.S. trade laws, which unfortunately will put the long-term viability of the domestic blueberry industry in jeopardy,” reads the statement.
Blueberry consumption is higher than it’s ever been, some three times higher than in 2005, in the US. Import groups say that only about 20 percent of imported blueberries arrive during the American growing season, but the ABGA points to a 60-percent increase in total blueberry imports that could be harming the domestic industry.